Influential ski instructor and author; sportswriter, autoracer

Passing Date: 
Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Denise McCluggage, influential ski instructor and writer, died May 6, 2015, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She was 88.

McCluggage grew up in El
Dorado, Kansas, where she got her driver’s license at age 14. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Mills College in Oakland, California, then landed a job reporting and editing at the San Francisco Chronicle. In 1954 she moved to the New York Herald Tribune, where she carved out a niche covering action sports—such as skiing, auto racing and parachuting—as a participant/reporter. 

The following year she began racing professionally. In 1959, she won a sports car feature at Thompson Raceway—the first woman to do so. Her achievements included winning the grand touring category at Sebring in 1961, and a class win in the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964. She retired in 1965 and became founding editor of Competition Press, which became Autoweek.         

Meanwhile, she continued to write about skiing, for the Herald Tribune and other publications. She settled in Vermont, and from 1962 to 1964 wrote for SKI Magazine, about yoga for skiers, New England ski area development, and driving. Then she moved to Skiing, writing about ski areas and especially the psychology of skiing: She had a column called “Mind Over Skis,” and a column on cars for mountain driving. From 1988 to 1991 she wrote about cars and driving for Snow Country.

In 1975, with Sigi Grottendorfer of the Sugarbush Ski School, McCluggage launched the Centered Skier Workshops, five-day clinics incorporating elements of Zen, t’ai chi and visualization to achieve a relaxed and balanced approach to carved-turn skiing. One result was the influential book The Centered Skier (1977), still worth re-reading today. 

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