Kurzer Genussausflug ins Ötztal für einen kleinen Klettersteig. Sommermodus an!
Zielstrebig neigt sich der Winter im Mai seinem Ende zu. Zum Verdruss Vieler bringen allerdings die fünf Eisheiligen noch einmal fast winterliche Witterung nach Mitteleuropa. Zwischen 11. und 15. Mai bescheren sie regelmässig Kälte und Niederschläge und erzürnen die sommerlich gestimmten Gemüter.
Doch weit oben in den Bergen weiss man die Kälteeinbrüche noch zu schätzen.
So do we.
Mit einem herzlichen Dank an die Heiligen lassen wir die Wintersaison bei einer liftunterstützten Frühjahrstour ausklingen. Bis zum nächsten Kältefenster.
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Im Januar 2009 hatte ich die Ehre dieses Interview mit dem Ausnahme-Freeskier Shane McConkey zu führen. Shane verstab kurz darauf bei einem Ski-Base-Jump in den Dolomiten. Hier erzählt die Freeski-Legende Shane McConkey von seinem Leben als Freeski-Pro, Entwicklungen im Freeridebereich, seiner persönliche Klimabilanz, Saucer Boy und vielem mehr.
You developed some years ago the Volant Spatula, the first reverse/reverse (negativer Seitenzug und negative Vorspannung) ski. Which role played Saucer Boy, freeski-industries shining figure, in this process?
Shane McConkey: I’m not too sure, I haven’t spoken to Saucer Boy in a while. Last time I saw him he was passed out next to a sewer mumbling something about first decents.
To tell you the truth actually Saucer Boy’s antics kind of confused the credibility of my ideas a little bit. People didn’t know wether to take me seriously or not about rocker and tail tapered shapes because I’m always goofing off and making fun of myself. People thought I might have been taking the piss out of ski design or something. I kind of felt like “The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf” for a while. I knew that it was only a matter of time before everyone tried them and figured it out for themselves though. Which is exactly what happened. Europe is still a bit behind North America with these concepts though. It is only a matter of time.
After you have left Volant, they opted out of the freeski-market. Where the reasons market based or what went wrong?
Shane: I never left Volant. Volant got bought by Atomic and Atomic was not the least bit interested in working with me. They were only interested in repackaging the Volant brand into something that didn’t involve freeskiing.
You applied for a patent for the Spatula Shape. What happend with this jewel of ski manufacturing?
Shane: As an athlete contratually obligated to give our ideas to the companies we work with I gave my idea for the reverse side cut, reverse camber Spatula to Volant. Surprisingly they built it. They then applied for a patent for these shapes and it was patent pending by Volant Ski Corp. not by me. This was fine with me. I wouldn’t have wanted to do it myself. Starting a new ski company was the last thing I wanted to do back in 2002. Fortunately for all of us skiers the patent pending expired and then Volant got bought by Atomic and the whole company that was Volant got restructured to eventually become an attempt to create a high end, luxury ski for cruising groomers in St. Moritz.
In other words: Atomic didn’t saw the potential of the Spatula-design and gave a shit on it…?
Shane: If that patent had worked out then Atomic would own the patent on all skis with any sort of reverse camber, rocker, reverse side cut and tail taper. Pretty much the last company in the industry to deserve it. Luckily that didn’t work out and we skiers can now enjoy the many different versions of these design elements on the market from the various different companies who offer it. Now there is something for everybody.
After Volant you joined the K-team. How did you settle in at K2 and where are your duties?
Shane: I specifically chose to ski for K2. I did not go out and shop around. This was an easy choice. K2 has been the driving force behind skiing’s freeriding movement since the 1980s. Especially regarding revolutionary ski shapes, athlete promotion and marketing. It has been amusing watching the rest of the companies in the ski industry copy and follow them for decades. K2 also works with their athletes to design skis. The design engineers actually make the skis that the athletes want them to make. Until very recently an athlete from North America who wanted to work like this absolutely could not work with a European based company. And there are a lot of them. The European companies wouldn’t listen to their athletes’ ideas at all. It is still like this a lot but not quite as bad. We are finally seeing European ski design engineers listening to North American athletes. I absolutely knew my ski design ideas were going to radically change the industry. I had to choose a company that I knew would be receptive to my ideas. K2 was an easy choice.
My duties at K2 are to continue to help promote their new adventure category of skis. I give input as much as I can on ski designs and help push new concepts through. K2 now has many different models of rockered skis. It has been a lot of fun seeing this process unfold.
A working day of Shane McConkey is…
Shane: Usually it is sitting at my desk getting stuff done on my computer so that I can fund the next big project or to maintain everything involved with the cost of living and my business. Get some excercise – Skiing, mountain biking or hiking. Get my daughter ready for day care, pick her up from day care. Play with her. A lot of time on the phone dialing in plans for projects. Ya know, stuff like that.
The ski market faced several big changes in the past few years. Fibreglass, the carving revolution, twintips and fat freeride skis. Step by step different variations in camber and sidecut shapes become more and more fashionable. What do you see as the next big step?
Shane: That’s the million dollar question now isn’t it!
“There’s nothing better than sliding down snow, flying through the air”
Yes, it is. So, the answer….please.
Shane: I wish I knew the answer. I’m not sure what the next big step will be but I would really like to see a massive change made to our boot/binding system. The fact that we have to wear these hard shelled, heavy plastic, clunky boots with extra plastic tabs sticking out on them on both the toe and the heel just so we can fit into a heavy binding simply has got to be changed. There are four separate, complicated and heavy mechanisms that all alpine skiers have to screw into our skis in order to hold our feet on them. Two heel pieces and two toe pieces. And in order for our boots to stay in these things they have to have those clunky, awkward tabs protruding off of them.
Someone needs to hurry up and invent a binding system that provides the support that we need from our boots. Just like snowboard bindings do. Then we could all be wearing snowboard style boots without the hard shell plastic and without the clunky tabs. We need to figure out a way to do away with the DIN standard and the concept of the toe and heel piece for bindings. There a lot of brilliant minds out there building bindings and ski boots. If there was no longer a DIN standard then they could start thinking outside the box again like they were back in the 70s when some incredible concepts for boot/binding systems were invented. Now it kind of feels like FIS is in charge of binding design. No creativity allowed!
What about the Marker Duke system. Isn’t this binding a big step forward for freeride pleasure?
Shane: There are certain products that are currently on the market which are great. I really am relieved that the ski world finally has an alpine binding that also has a touring option which is bomber and tough. This has been desperately needed in skiing for the many people who do small tours. No other touring binding on the market comes remotely close to the Duke’s performance. I love that binding.
The most negative aspect in freeski/freeride-sector for me is…
Shane: Probably how long it takes the rest of the world to understand new ideas and advancements in ski technology. The lag time is about five years. People still, to this day, get on the chair lift with me and look down at my Pontoons and say things like: “Whoa! Are those two snowboards on your feet?!!?.” It will be a deep powder day and the guy will be using something totally useless for powder skiing like an 85 mm waisted 175 with lots of camber. Where have these people been for the past 5 years?? I can understand it if someone can’t afford a new pair of skis, that is a different story. If they can afford new powder skis and then they go out and buy, like a 90 mm waisted ski with normal camber, for skiing the powder and thinking that they got the correct ski then it makes me realize just how disconnected most people are to where the sport is at nowadays.
You are a worldwide traveled sportsman. You fly with planes all around the world and with helis on mountains. At the same time the world faces a dramatical climate change – the causes are we humans and our enduring destroying behavior. How does your personal ecological balance sheet looks like? With other words your carbon footprint.
Shane: My ecological footprint is terrible. So is my carbon footprint. I will be the first to admit that. I fly around the world in aircraft, one of the worst things you can do for the planet. Part of my job is also to help promote the sale of products and to feed the notion of consumption that has become such an enormous mistake for humans. However, I have been recycling consistently for over 20 years now. My family produces more recycling than garbage every week.
Many people are now finally beginning to wake up and realize what we need to do in order to save ourselves as well as our planet from certain ruin. At least they think they are. The unfortunate fact is that even if the whole world changed their ways immediately and drastically we will probably still fail unless we also reduce the world?s population. It all boils down to population control. I may have a terrible ecological footprint but I am also a realist. You can be the greatest environmentalist alive and preach to the world about saving the planet and help to change millions of people’s minds about the environment but if you have 5 children back home then you are doing more damage than any amount of good you could ever do. You are increasing the world’s population, the worst thing you can do for the planet. And this is the root of the whole problem.
Isn’t it kind of canting flying with helis and all that effort for just some powturns and damage the climate (and therewith the future powpow) even more active?
Shane: Yes, absolutely! It bothers me every time I step in the heli, but it sure is fun!
As an extreme-sportsman you need to have sponsors and media coverage. Do you sometimes fell kind of stripped? Wouldn’t you sometimes prefer a usual 9to5 job and have fun with your friends and family?
Shane: No, absolutely not. Have you been sniffing glue? I have the best job in the world. My job is to go out there every day and have fun with my friends. Not just a little bit of fun, a mother fucking shit ton of fun! When I am not traveling and I am at home I am just that – AT HOME with my wife and daughter. I don’t have to get up and leave them for some shitty 9-5 job that would strip the life out of me. I can go skiing with them if I want. I can take my daughter to the park. Having sponsors and getting to work in an industry and be closely involved with creating toys for us all to play on is very rewarding. Do I feel stripped? Hell no! I specifically chose to work with those companies because I believe in their products.
You are a 1-time father and husband. What about your risk management?
Shane: People always ask if I am more careful now that I have a daughter. The answer is no. I have always been careful. I definitely think through the consequences of a dangerous situation more times now before I do it though. It makes perfect sense if you think about it. Before a person has a child they don’t risk their own life irrationally. So when you do have a child you still are not going to risk your life irrationally. The only thing that sometimes bothers me is that if the worst thing happened and I were to die then my daughter would grow up without a father. And I would not get to experience that. When people who engage in inherently dangerous activities as their life’s passion or job finally have children they have a choice to make. Quit your passions or keep doing them. My biggest goal in life has always been to pursue passion and to make dreams a reality. I love my daughter but if I had to quit my passions for her then I would be setting the wrong example for her and I would not be myself anymore.
You are considered to be the pioneer of the ski-basejump-scene. When will the crowds see the first fluent ride after a skibasejump in a previosly unskiable line?
Shane: I have been wanting to do this for many years now but I don’t live in Europe or anywhere that this particular line is possible. It takes a trip oversees for me to do this stuff so it has been hard to manage. Also the last few years I have been focusing on normal skiing and some other projects. My prediction is that JT Holmes and I will do it this winter somewhere in Europe.
What are your plans for the future? And even more important: what can we expect from Saucer Boy?
Shane: It has been very surprising how positive the response to the return of Saucer Boy has been! I think he is off practicing his booze pounding and bragging about himself right now but I’ll bet he turns up now and again over the next few years. He says he is going to get Jack Daniels and Jim Beam to jointly sponsor his lunar saucering mission. He wants to be the first to snowlerblade down some craters on the moon and to saucer off some lunar cliffs. He is claiming that 600 foot cliffs are possible to stick directly onto your tail bone on the moon due to the less gravitational forces.
Personally I plan to do as much skiing with parachutes as possible and to keep on throwing my ideas at the ski industry. And when the US economy really shits the bed I will move my family to Europe. If you think our foreign policy is bad now just wait till all of us loud mouthed, arrogant, fat Americans begin invading Europe for a better place to live! It will become the European States of America! I can see it now! Ha! You guys are screwed!
What can you as a professional athlete advise our readers and all the freeriders out there?
Shane: (laughing) After you are done wiping don’t turn on the faucet with the same hand you wiped with. Because after you are done washing your hands your clean hand then has to touch the faucet handle again and you might get poo molecules on it.
Shane, thanks a lot for this conversation.
All rights reserved. Picture: Red Bull Media Pool
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In der aktuellen Ausgabe der Special Interest-Zeitschrift “Skiing – the next level” (DE,AUT, CH) findet sich ein fünfseitiges Fotoportfolio von mir. Vielen dank an die Fahrer Marc Hartinger, Lorenza Chiarello, Moritz Kuster sowie Sebastian Dickenherr für die Bildbearbeitung.
Das gedruckte Magazin findet man käuflich an jedem größeren Kiosk.
Mehr Infos unter: www.skiingmag.de
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