A young, freckled Shane McConkey fidgets in front of the camera, laughing uncomfortably, and says, “You got to do what you got to do to have fun.” And as we watch the opening clips of the fun-loving, good-humored pro skier, we feel a bittersweet twinge, because we know his life will end in a tragic accident.
The documentary neatly lays out all the events leading to March 2009 in the Dolomites, from his early days of struggling to find his place in the world to discovering the extreme sports that would shoot him to fame. McConkey was an admitted man-child, doing silly things like skiing down slopes completely naked, always pursuing bigger and bigger thrills. But after meeting his wife, Sherry, and the birth of their daughter, Ayla, the man who once said “I’ll never stop” was possibly considering that it was time to slow down and get the “maximum enjoyment out of life” with his family.
Back and forth, McConkey cuts between McConkey’s extraordinary stunts and his last days. The looming moment of his fall is excruciating—and hard to watch when it finally comes. Thankfully, the documentary spares us, only giving us a glimpse of the cameramen in the helicopter rather than what they witnessed. The grief we see among those who loved him is brief yet palpable. But the emotion we’re left with is more uplifting, as the film ends in a manner perfectly befitting McConkey’s spirit—with J.T. Holmes, who was in Italy with McConkey, telling a story of how this consummate prankster got the last laugh—even in death—by stealing Holmes’s money as part of an ongoing joke.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 9, 2013