^@peteschleif ripping some sun-soaked moguls
Shane McConkey is one of my heroes.
I admit that’s not a particularly unique thing to say as a skier. I’ve been called ‘basic’ more than once in my life, and I’m okay with that.
I started my day by gorging on a selection of pastries from Wildflour Baking Company. I’d seen enough Instagram pictures posted by my local Tahoe friends that I had to check the place out for myself.
Let’s just say that after 3 days of ‘trying out’ the products, I’m finally ready to say- Wildflour lives up to the hype.
^Photo Credit: Palisades Tahoe
Feeling a little bit groggy, and coming down from a sugar rush, I bought another cup of coffee and sat outside.
It was brisk at 8:30AM, but Palisades Tahoe was starting to come to life as sunshine flooded the valley over the surrounding mountains.
I glared up at the iconic KT-22 lift line. The Fingers stared back with their menacing and rocky ridges. If only those cliff could talk.
^Looking at The Fingers from the base of KT-22
What would they say? Would they tell stories about Shane McConkey, the Gaffneys, and countless others paving the way for freeskiing as we know it?
If anybody figures out a way to interview a mountain, let me know. I have questions.
My second cup of coffee started to kick in as my dear friend Peter Schleifer (@peteschleif) met me with a smile and his overly-stoked vibe that I love.
Our ‘mission’ was pretty simple for the day. Ski as much as possible, hike up Eagle’s Nest for some pics, and have fun.
We decided to check off Eagle’s Nest right away.
^Scoping out The Eagle’s Nest from KT-22
The ride up KT-22 felt like the beginning of that spiritual journey I referenced in the title.
This might sound silly, but skiing has become a pseudo-religion for me in recent years. Rather than just an activity or sport, it’s grown as a way to express myself and be connected in the moment.
I felt intrinsically connected to this moment as we ascended over The Fingers and Eagle’s Nest came into view.
^The Fingers as seen from KT-22
For those who are still wondering what in the hell The Eagle’s Nest is- I apologize for taking so long to give you some background info.
I tend to do that when I get excited about something.
The Eagle’s Nest is an iconic line visible at the top of KT-22 on the looker’s left. It’s menacingly steep, and intimidating as all hell.
^Eagle’s Nest as seen from KT-22
Eagle’s Nest was given a new name in recent years to pay homage to the late and great Shane McConkey.
Now known as either Eagle’s Nest or McConkey’s, all Palisades Tahoe skiers know the area is dedicated to the GOAT of freeskiing.
The hike up to Eagle’s Nest is a bit of a challenge.
On this particular day, the copious amounts of snow blanketing the rest of the resort had been mostly-melted from the south-facing section we were ascending.
We gripped tightly to the steel cable flanking the route and dug into the loose rock with the soles of our ski boots.
I slipped a couple of times, but my new kit from TREW didn’t rip or tear. I was impressed that the gear survived my hiking incompetence.
We scrambled up to the summit, and I felt my breath quicken.
The view from up there on a clear day is as good as any.
The majority of Palisades Tahoe’s terrain can be seen sweeping from left to right, and Lake Tahoe pokes through in the distance with its crystal blue waters.
^Lake Tahoe in the background. View from Eagle’s Nest
The moment wasn’t lost on me. I was standing in the exact spot that my hero forged his skills to become, arguably, the greatest skier of all-time.
I wonder what Shane thought the first time he looked over that ledge?
Was he as stoked as I was about the view? Was he simply focused on skiing the best line possible? Did he have any idea how impactful he would be on millions of skiers across the globe?
I closed my eyes and focused on my breathing, something my therapist taught me to practice in moments like this.
I have a habit of failing to live in the moment, and I wanted to make sure I was soaking this all in.
It might sound weird, but I stood there at the top of Eagles’ Nest/McConkey’s with my buddy Peter in complete silence for about 30-seconds.
^Me. Taking photos from the top of Eagle’s Nest. Credit: @peteschleif
We then both collectively turned to each other and spoke about how grateful we were for skiing, and for Shane.
Skiing is my religion, my community, and my passion. I’ve yet to be able to replicate the freedom I feel while sliding on snow.
Visiting the statue at the top of Eagle’s Nest felt like a seminal point in my life as a skier. It was a pilgrimage I felt very fortunate to be able to take.
I’m struggling to find the ‘right’ way to end this article so I’ll leave you with this and just hope I’ll be able to convey the countless thoughts racing through my brain as I type these words…
Shane McConkey knew that skiing was supposed to be about having fun. He made it his life’s mission to progress as one of the best skiers on the planet, but he never stopped having fun.
^An iconic photo of Shane McConkey sending The Palisades BN.
It’s the reason why we have clips of him slaughtering an entire lift line for first chair, and the iconic Saucer Boy character.
I never met Shane, but I felt as connected to his mission as ever standing there at the top of Eagle’s Nest.
I made the decision that my mission is to spread even a fraction of the fun that Shane was able to throughout his legendary career.
I am going to try my hardest to live like Shane, and I encourage others to do the same.
Life is hard, but skiing is fun.
Live in the moment, and always make the most of it.
Big thanks again to @peteschleif, Palisades Tahoe, and Red Bull Snow for making this trip happen!
Images: Matt Lorelli/Unofficial Networks