A tribute to McConkey: BASE jumping off a snowmobile 

Erik Roner remembers his mentor, retires McConkey's old sled

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It was a move that showboater Shane McConkey might have dreamt up himself; driving a snowmobile off a 244-metre cliff in a death defying, hold-your-breath BASE jump, in the big B.C. backcountry.

McConkey, a freeskiing legend with deep ties to Whistler, never had the chance to do it; he died four years ago during a combined skiing and BASE jumping stunt in Italy.

So it was with McConkey in mind that Erik Roner took to the sky, riding his friend's old sled off the cliff in a tribute fit for a man who pushed the envelope and took both skiing and BASE jumping to new heights.

"We always talked about how fun it'd be to make a snowmobile BASE jump. When I landed I could almost hear him say... "Bitchin'", said Roner in an email from Australia where he is travelling with Nitro Circus doing live shows.

"That snowmobile was on its last leg and I wanted to retire it in a way Shane would be proud of. I took some of his ashes with me and spread them around the jump and snowmobile... it was pretty emotional."

The jump took place on April 21 off a cliff in Fernie. It was filmed and uploaded to YouTube, where it's been viewed more than 130,000 times so far. The link is at www.piquenewsmagazine.com.

There has been some mixed reaction to the jump; Roner defended it on YouTube:

"To those that thought this was negative or pointless... I was honouring and fulfilling a dream I had with one of my best friends. His ashes are in an urn at his wife's house with the instructions to spread them all over the world."

Friend Mike Douglas agrees it was a fitting tribute.

"Shane would've love it," he said. "It was his style not to worry too much what anyone else thought and just have fun. When I saw it, it made me think of Shane and that put a smile on my face."

Roner and McConkey met skiing in the late `90s but really cemented their friendship once Roner started skydiving and BASE jumping.

"I made lots of jumps with Shane over the years and (he) taught me so much of what I know today," said Roner.

"It was a fitting tribute 'cause it's what Shane would have wanted with his old snowmobile. He always taught me to look for creative and unique BASE jumps."

McConkey was a regular in Whistler — he was born in Vancouver but his dad "Diamond Jim" McConkey, also a freeski legend, was the head ski instructor in Whistler from 1968 to the early '80s.

In 2008 Shane McConkey christened the Peak 2 Peak Gondola with a BASE jump from a gondola cabin at its highest point over the ground.

Roner tried to find a place around Pemberton and Whistler to do his snowmobile jump.

"It's harder than you think to find a sheer cliff you can ride a snowmobile off," he said.

This was unlike any other one of Roner's jumps.

"Anytime you do something with another person or cause in mind it usually changes the feelings involved," he wrote. "Shane was a big influence in my life and I owe a lot to him."

The sled was removed from the site after the jump, something Douglas said he was also happy to see. Parts were given to friends, family and fans or auctioned off for McConkey's charity — The Shane McConkey Foundation.

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