But in either case, bet they were brushing off anxiety at the top of the run with, "It's not gonna happen to me, not this day." Followed by, "So where do I start my line?" Denial of risk is key. Did Shane McConkey actually thought he might die in a particular stunt? Nope. He paid lip service to that in the abstract, in interviews, by shrugging or goofing it off. But any psychologist will tell you that when you're getting ready to do something risky that involves performance, your thoughts are all about pulling it off; you've already decided a bad outcome will not happen, or if it does, somehow you'll be OK anyway. Why do some people have sex without condoms? Why do they drive drunk? Why do they ski groomers fast near trees, let alone ski avalanches waiting to happen? Because "It won't happen to me. Not this particular time." Freud was about right on this one, for a change. Our defense mechanisms prevent us from actually confronting the idea of our own death because we'd be paralyzed by it.
I'm not sure this is actually always the case? From what I've heard, much of the allure IS that you could die. And when you don't, the feeling of being alive is that much more intense. That's the addictive part, those endorphins.