The news started rolling in slowly at first. One friend and then another, until finally Facebook and every ski blog on the web was abuzz with messages of mourning for ski pioneer Shane McConkey. Like most of you, I never knew Shane McConkey. And like most of you, I idolized him for his skiing, his humour and his seemingly-charmed life. I memorized his video segments and I dreamed of throwing massive tail-cross backflips off cliffs. I even dressed up as Saucerboy once, snowlerblading around the mountain with a handle of rye and coke and trying to evade patrol as I straight-saucered the t-bar line. Needless to say, I looked up to him. I even met him once. And as juvenile as it seems, I was a little bit star struck. I’ve met pro skiers, filmmakers, photographers and legends. Few of them make a positive, lasting impact. Most of them are just like you and I. But Shane seemed different. Unlike other famous faces of freeskiing, Shane gave back to skiing in a purely positive way. He contributed more than progressive new tricks or vanity product lines. He gave us passion for the sport. He gave us personality. He was, is, and always will be the face of freeskiing despite the fact that he was “old” in the eyes of its key demographic. Never emitting the same, tired and surly attitude that was so prevalent in the early days of freeskiing, he didn’t act out because he had daddy issues or reviled the “dinosaurs” in the sport. He rebelled because he understood that rebellion was fun, and because he loved skiing more than anyone else. He challenged the status quo harder than any other skier in the industry; he invented the reverse-camber ski, he pioneered ski-baseing, he gifted us with Saucer Boy and he transformed the way a whole generation of skiers turned their skis; very large and not very often. He is not only a freeski pioneer and one of the most charismatic skiers of all time. He is freeskiing. And tonight, as I watch the emails, text messages and blog entries flood into my life from people who knew Shane or were just simply touched by his energy, I can’t help but add my own small voice. You were the man, Shane. And you’ll be sorely missed. We’ll do our best to hold it down for you down here. But something tells me the ski community will never quite be the same without you. Or because of you. Thanks for all the good times.

Photo courtesy of Bull Photofiles

Check out the video of Shane "opening" Whistler Blackcomb's Peak 2 Peak Gondola in his own very special way.