SKIING's interview with Shane McConkey, one of North America's top 25 skiers.
Editor's Note: In our surveys for this story, no one got even half as many votes as Shane. He's universally admired for combining disciplines -- like throwing huge back flips off backcountry cliffs -- and for his enthusiastic support of all aspects of the sport. In 2000 he won the big-mountain comp at the Gravity Games and skiercross at the Core games in Japan. Shane also started the International Free Skiers Association (IFSA), a nonprofit group that sanctions competitions and provides prize money.
Name: Shane McConkey
Date of Birth: December 30, 1969
Age when you started skiing: Two
Where did you learn to ski? "I skied at Whistler first, then we moved to Tahoe, so I pretty much grew up in Squaw, and I still live there. I went to Burke Mountain Academy in Vermont and then Boulder, Colorado, for college, so I skied Vail and A-Basin."
When did it hit you that you could be a pro skier? "I always wanted to be; I was a ski racer when I was younger. There wasn't any other avenue for skiers. Then I watched Blizzard of AAAHHswhen I was 18 and saw other ways of skiing. That's when I realized I could be a pro at what I'm doing now."
What's your beverage of choice? Blaster (Red Bull and Jagermeister)
Are you religious? "No. I believe in the seize-the-day concept -- do it now."
What's the last book you read?: Harry Potter, the second one.
Do you have a ski hero? Scott Gaffney, Rick Sylvester, John Eaves, Scot Schmidt, and Frank Gambali
Pastimes off the hill: Skydiving and BASE jumping -- "I'm more addicted to that right now than I am to skiing."
Plans for the future: "To ski BASE; to ski off a really, really big cliff -- like 3,000 feet -- and combine the two sports I'm really into. Rick Sylvester did it off El Cap in '73. It was a ballsy, rad stunt -- one of the pioneering moves in the BASE-jumping world."
What are your thoughts on the state of the ski industry? "Things have been changing for the better for sure. But it's still an anal-retentive, white-bread, conservatively-run sport. A lot of people in the ski world just don't get it, and they're scaring away a lot of the kids. We need to show kids in the world that skiing is rad and cool. The new freestyle thing is helping a lot"
What's the biggest scare you've ever had on skis? "Everyone always asks me that -- I don't know. I just forget about the negative stuff. But blowing my knee out was bad because I knew I was done for the season."