The Pain McShlonkey Classic

A beautiful massacre of snowblading glory all in the name of charity

“Just ski down there and jump off something, for cryin’ out loud!” Words of wisdom from the late Shane McConkey and his goofy legacy at the PMS.
PHOTO: Jason Abraham

This story originally appeared in the February 2016 (44.6) issue of POWDER.

The Who: Miscreants. They are also line cooks, ski reps, pro athletes, business owners, and classy ladies who reveal their inner gnar—all with a good heart and hearty liver. There are a lot of assholes, too. Because all of the skiers in the Pain McShlonkey Classic, at Squaw Valley, California, cheat. Every damn one of them.

At the gun blast, they take off from the starting line high on the mountain—skating, pushing, shoving, and tomahawking in costume. If it were easy, it’d be called skiing. On snowblades, the race to the finish is complete mayhem, and things get a little rough. In 2012, Daron Rahlves, the most decorated downhill racer in American history, took out my legs in the first few minutes. But it’s all good; it’s for charity.

Past winners include some of the biggest names in skiing: Rahlves, Cody Townsend, and Wendy Fisher. But don’t underestimate the locals. Tahoe native Greg “The Shark” Lindsey brought home last year’s trophy—a Golden Saucer—by clicking out of his blades and running uphill to a diving finish. Lindsey, 31, has competed in the event four years running. He goes by the pseudonym “Barry the Blader,” a white-wine-drinking Cool Guy.

The What: A beautiful massacre of snowblading glory and too much makeup, the PMS is the brainchild of who else but Shane McConkey, the biggest miscreant of all. He and a few friends held the first PMS in 2002 as a way of making fun of skiers holding their own competitions—then winning their own competitions.

After McConkey died in 2009, his wife, Sherry, started the Shane McConkey Foundation and resurrected the PMS as a fundraiser. Now, every year on a Saturday in late March, over 60 lunatics line up at the top of KT-22 (conditions permitting) just past 9 a.m., which usually means the snow is at optimal refrozen death mank. Participants are allowed to cheat, but those who practice beforehand are scorned like a bad fart in the tram. Last year, Josh Anderson, dressed as one of the Dead Presidents from Point Break, released a smoke bomb at the start of the course, disorienting unsuspecting competitors.

“Physically, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” says local Amie Engerbretson, who won the women’s downhill in 2013.

The PMS also includes a second event incorporating style. There was once the snowblade big air, then the small mountain extreme competition, a ballet, and last year’s dual switch slalom course.

The Why: Why freakin’ not, man? Strap on blades and huck yourself down the mountain with a mildly intoxicated brain. Be daring. Be the next Barry the Blader.

But it goes beyond that. Using proceeds from the PMS, the Shane McConkey Foundation supports many Tahoe-area charities. The group has donated over $80,000 to help local schools become more environmentally friendly. It has issued grants to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a cause that was especially important to McConkey, and Protect Our Winters.

“Shane would be so proud and stoked,” says Sherry. “That’s all that makes me happy. I can feel that the event is exactly how he’d want people to celebrate his life.”

The WTF: Where else can you drink a beer at 9 a.m. with Rachael Burks dressed as Magda from There’s Something About Mary, take a tight turn near Rahlves at 9:10 a.m., watch former gold medalist Jonny Moseley cartwheel into the start gate with one hand on a bottle of whiskey, then party throughout the day and into the night?

Best of all, some rich cougar usually bids a ton of money for charity to get a lunch date with JT Holmes. God bless the PMS.