Extreme skier Shane McConkey, who lived and trained near Lake Tahoe, was killed jumping off a cliff with a parachute while filming a movie in Italy. He was 39.
His sponsor Red Bull confirmed his death Thursday.
McConkey was in Corvara, Italy, on a ski-BASE jump when he had a
mid-air malfunction, Red Bull said in a statement. Italian emergency responders arrived within minutes and pronounced him dead at the scene, according to the sponsor.
"Shane loved life and innovated both sport worlds he touched, skiing and B.A.S.E. Jumping," Red Bull spokesman Patrice Radden said in a statement. "Unfortunately, the sport he pioneered also carries inherent risks."
McConkey founded the International Free Skiing Association and had grown popular in recent years for his BASE jumping competitions and big-mountain film exploits.
During his career he won the IFSA world tour of freeskiing in 1996 and 1998, and finished second in the 1999 Winter X Games Skier X competition. In 2001, Skiing Mag listed him as the top skier in North America, and Powder magazine readers voted him skier of the year three times.
McConkey lived and trained at Squaw Valley's Olympic Village south of Truckee, Calif., the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics. He is survived by his wife, Sherry, and 3-year-old daughter, Ayla.
Scott Gaffney, a longtime friend of his in Tahoe City, Calif., said McConkey was a "icon and a legend" in their sport.
"I was pretty much floored," Gaffney told the Tahoe Daily Tribune. "With what he does, you picture it happening at some point, and yet at the same time, you think it's never going to happen. The bottom fell out today."
"He was a larger than life personality," Gaffney said. "He was one of the most gifted individuals you'll ever meet, and one hell of a friend who never let who he was in the media's eyes change him."
Todd Offenbacher, an outdoor adventurer who created the Tahoe
Adventure Film Festival, said he became friends with McConkey through his BASE jumping adventures.
"Everybody loved Shane. He was always pushing the limits of sports, creating new sports and creating good energy out there," Offenbacher said.
McConkey lived in Colorado's Vail Valley during the early 1990s and competed on the Pro Mogul Tour. He ran an annual ski camp in Chile with Chris Anthony, a Vail-based pro skier who skied with McConkey at the University of Colorado.
Anthony described McConkey as "super inspirational, very innovative, and always sort of thinking about what the next thing is that we could do."
Dave LaPlante, a Reno-based skier and longtime friend, said he was lucky to have known McConkey.
"Skiing today owes Shane more than it probably knows," LaPlante told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "He taught the industry how to have fun by pushing and redefining the limits."
Just weeks ago Mcconkey talked with us right here at Kolo-8, discussing the dangers of doing what he loved. The link to that interview is below.