Shane McConkey will forever be remembered as one of the greats of freestyle skiing, but today his legacy lives on not only in his skiing but also in the game of GNAR, his brainchild with Robb Gaffney, the author of Squallywood, the unofficial guide detailing exactly how to shred all the best lines in Squaw Valley Ski Resort, CA. GNAR, an acronym standing for “Gaffney’s Numerical Assessment of Radness”, is explained in a bonus chapter written by McConkey at the end of Squallywood, but it evolved into an unofficial full competition in 2010 and is now one of the most loved aspects of ski culture.
The overall concept of the game of GNAR and the Squallywood book, in general, is that every line at Squaw Valley is worth a certain number of points based on its difficulty level, structured similarly to a rock climbing guide, but you can also lose points by crashing or gain points by pulling out extra tricks or stunts. While the original system was designed specifically for Squaw Valley, it can easily be adapted to any ski hill; for example, in 2011 Vail adapted the rules to be specific to their runs and had a GNAR day on the hill.
Some of the most popular extra points available include the BN (completing any line butt naked) that can earn you 5,000 points, the Pro Call Out (telling a pro skier you’re better than them) which can earn you 500 points, and 500 points for the Mom Call (skiing a line top to bottom while on the phone with your mom). Similarly, penalties can include losing your skis in a crash which will cost you 1,000 points per ski or getting your pass pulled by a ski patroller (particularly risky if you’re completing a BN) which will cost you 5,000 points.
Squallywood was originally published in 2003, but GNAR came to life with a real competition at Squaw Valley put on by Unofficial Networks with a cash prize of $25,000 in 2010 as a tribute to McConkey. The competition featured a hand-picked group of mainly local skiers and a film crew that recorded the whole planned two weeks of shredding. The competition started bright and early at 4:30 am on March 9th with the first 3,000 points being awarded to the first skier on the chair, and things only got more intense over the day as BNs and crazy tricks were pulled off all across the mountain. While originally the Squaw Valley administration was tentatively on board with the GNAR competition, the team was shut down after only one day because the head of the hill was worried about naked skiers overrunning the mountain and deterring business.
Instead of giving up, the GNAR team packed up and took the competition on the road, using the prize money to fund an epic ski adventure all across the United States, bringing the GNAR spirit of fun back into skiing. The result was the GNAR Movie, an epic saga documenting the entire adventure. Since then, GNAR has unofficially been adopted for many ski hills, and it’s a great way to have fun with your friends and family while shredding sick lines.