Scott Gaffney on Shane’s Legacy

Scott Gaffney on Shane's Legacy

Words: Scott Gaffney

A three day storm had just ended and it was sunny and cold and one of the best days of the season. My wife could not believe it when she showed up to ballet class and saw Shane with his daughter."I am leaving in a couple of days and I just wanted to spend some more time with Ayla," Shane said. From there they went to ski class where Shane spent the afternoon at Tahoe Donner skiing with Ayla. They stayed after class that day and closed down the mountain riding together…
For the first time in his life there was something more important than skiing and jumping.—Snowboarder Jeremy Jones

One of Shane's best attributes was that he could go from zero to 100 and back to zero without blinking. He could play with Ayla at the park in the morning, throw a quadruple backflip ski BASE in the afternoon and read her a book before bedtime. The rush he received from skiing and BASE-jumping was as vital as oxygen, but he could flick the switch back to "real" on a moment’s notice.

So what is Shane McConkey’s legacy? Many believe that it is his visionary gift of rocker to skiing and snowboarding. Others cite his humor. Some feel it’s the inspiration he provided to countless people to push themselves a little further. And others will be forever moved by the manner in which he made every day count.

No one is wrong. Because Shane McConkey gave so much to all of us. He made us say, “Sick!” and “Oh my god” over and over, and he made our skin tingle when we watched him throw his hands in the air or fist pump because for a moment we felt we were witnessing pure exhilaration. I like to think that if we were all told we had 24 hours to live, a great percentage of us would want to rush out to do the kinds of things Shane did on a daily basis.

Surrounded by the spectacular towering walls of the Dolomites, Shane McConkey had already packed 10 lifetimes in one short brilliant one. He pointed his skis toward the edge of the world and sailed off into space, rotating once and then twice, only to find that his left ski failed to release, preventing him from flying away. To make matters worse, the right ski became tangled on the left. He remained focused on reaching that left binding and releasing it so he could achieve a snag free deployment. Valuable seconds whisked away before he managed to do just that, and turned into perfect flying position. But there were no seconds left. He impacted the snow, and died instantly.

We lost an incomparable athlete, inspiration, joker, warrior, entertainer, visionary, legend, hero, best friend, son, husband and father. The resulting void can never be filled. But you know what? Yet again, Shane came out on top. Because when it came to actually living while alive, Shane McConkey had already won.