J.T. Holmes

With Shane McConkey's Pontoon skis.

Holmes near his home in Squaw Valley     Photo: Photo by Bryce Duffy

Shane had persistence. Whenever he got an idea, it was like, "We're going to figure this out." With the Pontoon skis, which he designed, his epiphany came from watching water-skiing. It dawned on him that powder is softer than water. So he actually mounted some water skis and took them out on snow. It was the same thing with ski-BASE jumping. The first time we did a ski-BASE was in South Lake Tahoe in 2003. It was like we had new eyes, looking at the mountains. Nobody else was seeing the same lines we were. When he died, I did take a pause. I debated whether I could continue—or even wanted to. There was no craving. But after a few months, I got the urge. That first jump back felt great, like it always had. When I was 15 and Shane was 25, we ducked a rope and skied out of bounds together. I asked, "Hey, man, what do you do for money?" He looked at me with this grin on his face and said, "I'm a rock-star pro skier, man!" He was so happy. I knew right then that's what I wanted to be.

In 2009, McConkey, 39, died while attempting a ski-BASE jump in the Italian Dolomites. Holmes, 29, who had jumped just ahead of McConkey that day, is a professional skier.

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