I’ll never forget the first day I skied at Vail. March 27, 2009.
Blue skies and sunshine make any ski day memorable, and the soft snow that was piled up in Vail’s vast, seemingly-endless Back Bowls, legendary by any standard, provided the icing on the cake. It was as if I had traveled to another planet. But also on this day a decade ago, before Twitter was a thing, lifties across the resort began their shifts by sharing some sad news via chalk and blackboard.
Normally reserved for temperature and wind-chill updates, the messages were chilling in their own right. It was here in a Vail liftline that I learned about the loss of skiing legend Shane McConkey, whose tragic accident in Italy’s Dolomites occurred too late to make the previous night’s local news. “RIP Cliff Huckstable” was etched in colorful chalk by one of Vail’s lifties.
McConkey lived in the Vail area for several years in the early 1990s, competing on the Pro Mogul Tour and delivering pizzas for Domino’s before his career exploded as an extreme skiing movie star and pioneering BASE jumper. Suddenly, he was gone.