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Top 25 Skiers: Shane McConkey

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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

Age: 31

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.”