2:00am…up…can’t sleep. The dream of the McConkey Pontoon’s mounted and in my hands was so real I woke up expecting to feel the edges on my finger tips. I thought I was standing there with them in the shop with the red and white Marker’s mounted and Shane was on the TV behind me doing some stupid trick or something…I can’t remember really, but I can tell you there is definitely ‘something about McConkey’.
It has been a long time since I felt the inevitable. Have you ever just looked at something or someone and known from the first moment they were going to become part of your life? The McConkey’s and I were destined. From the moment I heard about them and saw sneak peek pics in ski magazines that come out way to early in the fall. Even the ever Euro ‘Ski Press’ – who doesn’t even test K2’s (FIS sucks) ran 2 stories on Shane and the mythical special edition pontoon. Hope they don’t ski like shit Shane or the Euro’s will never buy them! Ha, ha!
Where to begin? I could tell you how I grew up with Rap (Real Action Pictures, Calgary) film premiers at whatever random University or community theatre Jon Long and James Angrove could dig up, or how sad I was when John Treman (yes, legendary big air man John Treman) was born again (yes, I said ‘born again’) – at least that’s what I heard – and stopped showing up in RAP films, and the year Trevor Peterson died and some other long-haired Cali punk kid from Tahoe made his debut in ‘Burning Winter’…at least his Canadian Debut since we didn’t have MSP up north…and the year of the most ridiculous breakable crust in skiable memory (Ed. Cut to scene with Kirk Jensen, Shane McConkey and the boys breaking two foot square slabs of thick frozen snow over each other’s heads beside their grounded chopper.) I could tell you all of the stories that made up the days and weeks between sessions on VCR’s and big tube TV’s…but I won’t. (I laugh!) OK, I will.
The ‘Burning Winter’ crew packed in the heli (like they all do when the snow turns to shit) found a big kicker wind-lip and Shane hit a double back and the biggest lawn-dart front flip I’d ever seen…or was that someone else? It doesn’t matter. I don’t remember honestly, at least not completely because years of running and rewinding those movies into my sleep has left a blur and created a near 20 year ski flick running in my psyche…but instead of digging the flick out of the cardboard box in the storage room and cuing it up to get the scene right I’ll tell you what I do remember; Shane sitting in front of the camera in a fake ‘Extreme’ Ski interview scene saying, “Dude, I’m just a skier. You need my acting double…” Cut to Kirk Jensen(remember Kirk Jensen?) in Shane’s hat and Oakley shades with straw for hair talking extreme dude talk as Shane until the interview ends with a laugh. Kirk pulled off the first (likely self-directed) McConkey slam scene I’d ever seen and Shane became part of my world forever as certainly as Trevor left us that same season.
If you haven’t seen ‘Burning Winter’…find it…it has the greatest tribute to Trevor. I can still see him standing there with his skateboard on the edge of the old bowl at the Whistler skate park, rarely looking at the camera or speaking much at all. He let the mountains speak for him. To all things time and tide.
Shane, on the other hand, well, let me just say he was rarely short for words and he selflessly monopolized the world of MSP (Matchstick Productions) in the epic ‘Ski Movie’ – the same year RAP films virtually vanished – and I made the inevitable long-awaited return to Whistler, 1997. There are many great skiers out there, and there always have been, but like T.J. Burke reminded Carl (the Aspen ski school director in ‘Aspen Extreme’), “Skiing is the easy part.” Meanwhile, Seth Morrison rocked the screen, he was a force in the evolution of skiing big mountains, pure power, a phenom, untouchable on snow, but Shane, well Shane and the magic of those boys behind the camera and in the editing room, Shane was a light brighter than the sport of sliding down hills with sticks on our feet could have imagined. He was real, real in a way that any kid without a tatoo or piercing or blue hair and gangster pants (love when they run to the bus holding their pants up) who ever farted and laughed could understand and ironically relate to.
My son (5) saw the skis at my shop yesterday proudly leaned against the shelves behind the cash desk and I think he was as excited as I was. At five years old I also think he understands death about as well as the rest of us. He looked at the picture on the ski of Shane with his wife Sherry and their daughter Ayla and said to me, “Now that Shane is dead the mom and the little girl are a family”, and I held back the tears until right now…”That’s right”, I said, “and we remember him because he made us all feel so good.” Then the serious little look on his face turned, his big blue eyes lit up and he smiled and said, “Ya, he made us laugh so much times.”
I think, like everyone else, I’ve been searching for the words since March. I only really knew him through the movies and later met through my work with Helly Hansen and launching the pain in the ass MSP world premiers in Whistler (yes, the ones where the crowd stole all the outfits off the mannequins including one plastic hand…it’s OK, it’s funny now…I wonder if Shane went out and partied with the hand that night?). I wrote him letters to Free Skier telling him the mag sucked because there weren’t enough big mountain pics and he was too old (I was 10 months older) like we were best friends or family and like so many I not so secretly imagined him beside me billy goating down the ridiculous secret chute off The Cirque (you know…the one under the rope). So much to say. I’m starting to see now that maybe I will never find the words but tomorrow after I drop my son off at his last day of kindergarten before the holidays and my wife takes our baby for a roll in the yellow stroller, I’ll pick up those skis at Spicy Sports, hang a for sale sign on the Sanouk’s that gave up the Marker’s for Shane, call my buddy Warren, slide over to the Wizard Chair, slap on a ‘Trevor Would Do It’ sticker (yep, still have one) and go up to that place where we don’t need any words.
…then again…the truth is Shane, I’ll probably hit a big ass spread eagle on the first two foot bump I see, or even a twister spread if there’s some pow, cruise to the bottom of the Glacier Chair and say, “These skis suck!”…and laugh out loud.