Cover Photo By: Anniexphoto.com
Additional Photos provided by Sherry McConkey
It has been four and half years since Sherry McConkey received news of the death of her husband, professional skier and BASE jumper Shane McConkey. On March 26, 2009, mountain communities and athletes everywhere were shocked and saddened to learn that Shane had died while attempting to perform his signature double backflip BASE jump in the Italian Dolomite Mountains. Shane McConkey left behind his partner and wife, Sherry McConkey, and their 3 year old daughter.
This month Red Bull Media House, in association with Matchstick Productions, is releasing the film “McConkey”, a tribute to this amazing man. It debuted at Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year to rave reviews. The movie covers the life of Shane as a ski pioneer, legend, funny man, husband and father. While Shane entertained us through his action-packed videos and practical jokes on his crew and fellow athletes, we also have Shane to thank for revolutionizing the way we ride mountains. The design of reverse side cut and reverse camber skis, or sticks with rocker technology, are part of the legacy Shane left behind.
Even though Shane became well-known as an extreme skier and jokester, he was also a devoted family man. Sherry was the woman beside the man, as well as a lady who, for us encompasses the values we share at Snow Bunny Magazine. Sherry’s friendly nature, giving spirit, strength, and motivation, lived-out on a daily basis, make her the perfect woman to profile for our inaugural issue.
Hailing from South Africa, Sherry Smulders McConkey has a strong accent and warm tone that immediately makes you feel like you’re talking to a long-time friend. It becomes quickly apparent when speaking with her, that Sherry exudes positive energy and love for life. It is no wonder that she stole the heart of one of skiing’s most influential and memorable athletes.
Shane and Sherry met while mountain biking in Lake Tahoe, CA. Their love of the outdoors led to a less-than-typical wedding and honeymoon. Married in Thailand in 2004, they celebrated with scuba diving, base-jumping and rock climbing. In 2005, they welcomed their adorable daughter, Ayla. While raising their daughter, Shane continued to push the limits and although Sherry said she was fearful of something happening to him, she knew preventing him from doing what he loved would be like “caging an eagle.”
After Shane’s death, Sherry set up the Shane McConkey Foundation and poured herself into charitable works. She is a devoted mother, philanthropist, volunteer yoga instructor, and all-around badass whose humble, sweet, and encouraging attitude is an inspiration.
Here are her words.
SB: You are a snowboarder and a skier, but you have many passions such as climbing, yoga, and mountain biking. What is it about the outdoors that you love so much?
Sherry: There are so many things I love about the outdoors, it’s beautiful, it humbles you, it makes you think, makes you feel so good. When I am outside I get creative, I can escape, it makes me laugh and smile and it shows me how lucky I am to live on this beautiful earth.
SB: We’ve seen pictures of you bungee jumping; did you ever get in to base-jumping or sky diving ?
Sherry: I BASE jumped 3 times and went sky diving a bunch, I started late in life and you need a ton of experience. Soon after I started, my little girl started growing in my belly and for me it was time to stop.
SB: What other sports do you enjoy and in your opinion what does it mean to be a fit woman?
Sherry: I mostly snowboard, mountain bike and do yoga, I would love to climb more but I’m sure that will start up again when Ayla can belay me, if she is into it. I started getting into sports when I was about 24 and soon realized that it thrilled me. Being fit to me is very important! When I get out on my bike for a few hours I come home a better mother, my mind is clear and I feel great all around even when I eat shit. The other part is I get to do these sports with some of the coolest people on this planet. Whether its girls or boys the amount of smiles, and laughter and pure delight in something we all share the same passion for and it is infectious. Woman are hilarious when we get together for any sport its always side splitting belly laughter which is the best drug in the world.
SB: Most skiers and snow boarders are familiar with Shane McConkey, and his impact on skiing. But for those who are newer to the ski world what would you tell them about him?
Sherry: HA, I could write a book……he was the most incredible, father, husband, man, he was funny, dorky, annoying, handsome, inspiring, he was an ok athlete and my soul mate.
SB: Watching movies that Shane was in, it’s obvious that Shane LOVED his life. Your marriage seemed to be one of the happiest and most loving relationships out there. What was it like during those years to on one hand be living life to the fullest but also know the risks that he was taking?
Sherry: In life you are always going to fear the inevitable, I was always scared he would die, just like most people fear they will loose their loved ones. Watching Shane do the things he loved, was one of the most heart pounding, thrilling things ever, if you saw his delight you would never think of taking it away from him, even if you knew how dangerous his sport was. I fell in love with Shane, I would never try to change or take away his passions. Shane to me lived one thousand lives compared to most people.
SB: Being married to an extreme athlete and skiing persona must have been a lot of fun but did you worry about the way in which he was progressing the sport?
Sherry: I feel like Shane and I had a pretty normal life, maybe its because there are so many incredible athletes in Tahoe and we all like the same stuff. We are a performance-based society. Pushing the limits means making an impact, a change, creation and innovation, there are always going to be pioneers.
SB: You have said that you like to focus on Shane’s life and his love of life. What can the average person reading this do to further his legacy?
Sherry: Help protect this beautiful world, but at the same time live life to the fullest!
SB: After his death was your love of the sport affected negatively?
SB: You are from South Africa but the Tahoe community has really embraced you, what is that like and do you feel that they have become your family?
Sherry: I have traveled and lived in a lot of countries but I have never experienced a community like this. I feel like a lot of people who live in Tahoe have families that live far away, so we all become one big family. I am one lucky woman to have this community; I don’t know what I would have done without them.
SB: Tell me about the Shane McConkey Foundation and the Pain McShlonkey event.
Sherry: I started the SMF on the 2nd anniversary of Shane’s death, when I approached some friends, who are the most amazing people, they dove in and we put on this event that we call the Pain Mcshlonkie (PMS) an event that Shane created years ago. On the Friday night we put on a gala, where we raise most of our money, its always a dress up party and little outrageous as that is how Shane would like it. The next day is the on mountain event which is hilarious, it starts off with a Chinese downhill, and then goes to a small mountain comp both are done dressed up and on snow blades, we then do a fashion show and have a after party which is crazy fun with an 80’s live band. My goal is to have everyone feel like they are part of celebrating Shane’s legacy. The goal of the Foundation is twofold: to carry on this legacy through random acts of kindness and charitable giving, and to inspire others to make a difference in the world at large. So far we have donated over 120k to local schools, local charities and other random deeds. We are working on a bigger project right now but I will have to get back to you on that one.
SB: What other charities/foundations are you involved with and what does it mean for you to be involved. Is there are specific charity/foundation that you are particularly attached to?
Sherry: We donate to Make a wish as it is a foundation that is close to Shane’s heart, The Humane Society because we love animals, Tahoe Wild Life, Tahoe Truckee school district for greening purposes and then we do RAD (random awesome deeds) which have made many people smile and happy. I teach restorative stretching (yoga) at High Fives Foundation, it’s a donation based class that goes to High Fives. Roy Tuscany, Adam Baillargeon and Steve Wallace are amazing, they are very inspiring and have built an incredible non profit. Roy Tuscany is my most favorite student ever, he is amazing.
SB: McConkey the movie just premiered at Tribeca. What was your reaction to the movie and when will Shane’s fans be able to purchase it?
Sherry: I knew that this movie would be amazing but I had no idea that it would do this well. The tour will start in Squaw on October 5th. The movie will be available for purchase on October 8th at http://mcconkeymovie.com or at www.skimovie.com.
SB: You are involved with activities that promote women’s safety in the backcountry. What sparked your interest in this project?
Sherry: The girls that started the program are local friends and incredible professional athletes. Over coffee, we added a yoga class to the program because I wanted to support their project and backcountry safety is something we all should know.
SB: You seem to have a very strong community of girlfriends, important for any girl, but what do your girlfriends mean to you with the added challenge of being a single mom.
Sherry: It is awesome to have such an incredible group of friends. Both men and women, I do not know what I would do without them.
SB: Your daughter is adorable and is 7 now, is she skiing and or snowboarding?
Sherry: She is skiing, she can choose what she wants to do but it makes me happy she is skiing.
SB: Having a daughter, what do you do to unwind?
Sherry: Mountain bike, snowboard and yoga, they all save my ass, it’s the cheapest therapy.
SB: What is your favorite place to ski in Tahoe and what do you love about it?
Sherry: Squaw of course, its an incredible mountain, I love it.
SB: What do you think the biggest challenge is for women athletes in the ski world?
Sherry: I feel that woman have come such a long way in the last few decades, change doesn’t happen over night. I’m always in awe by what woman do today I think they should be patient and proud as we have achieved some amazing things in life. Oh and get rid of insecurity as is a stupid waist of time.
SB: What inspires you everyday?
SB: You have a great style and presence about you. What makes your style you?
Sherry: HA, thank you, but I’m just silly dorky me.
SB: What do you see happening with regards to women in the ski and snowboard industry and in terms of progressing the sport?
Sherry: I think women will become even more impressive as athletes. We have gone thru a few decades where women athletes are truly striving. We are more in-tune with our minds and bodies; these fundamentals can help in life. Future athletes learn from what we have learned and are going to be even more incredible then the last generation athletes. It’s a very exciting thing to watch.
SB: Where would you like to see women go in the sport?
Sherry: I would like to see Woman achieve what they really want to do, to live life to the fullest, inspire kids and to do something that will make a difference in this beautiful world.
For more information on the Shane McConkey Foundation or the Pain McShlonkey Ski Competition visit http: