The Skiing Legend Whose Death Was Ironic

One of the most iconic figures in skiing was Steve McKinney, who was a larger-than-life figure during the ‘70s and ‘80s. With his long blonde hair snapping at his back as he crushed speed skiing world record after world record, 6’ 4” McKinney was described as the “Viking warrior.” In 1973, McKinney decided to climb the Donner Pass Black Wall, where he suffered an 80-foot fall, breaking his back and both heels. He spent the next few months in a body cast from his neck to his hips, but the following summer he returned to Donner and successfully made the climb. One would think that his daring would eventually be the cause of his death, but that wasn’t the case. In the early hours of November 10, 1990, while on his way to San Francisco for a business meeting, McKinney pulled his Volkswagen off of I-5 near Sacramento, California. Another car veered off the road and slammed into the back of the parked Volkswagen, killing 37-year-old McKinney. According to investigators, McKinney's car may have had mechanical problems, and he had apparently climbed into the back seat to sleep before seeking help. McKinney was honored posthumously with the North American Snowsports Journalists Association's inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award for 1992-93, for outstanding contributions to skiing.