The Story Behind A Legend – Dave McCoy

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The man who gave skiers, snowboarders, rock climbers, bikers, and mountain enthusiast from all over the world a reason to travel to Mammoth Mountain Ski Area located in the Eastern High Sierra Mountain Range of California.

At the age of 104, Dave McCoy passed away on February 8th, 2020. He was the pioneer of the California’s ski industry and transformed what was just a single mountainous peak into an entire town and mountain ski area that thrives with locals and visitors year round.

For more then six decades, Mammoth Mountain was Dave McCoy’s “hub”. It was originally just used for friends and family and slowly buy surely turned into a mega profitable (debt free) corporation with over 3,000 employees, and 4,000+ skiable acres that is known worldwide. 

In 2018 Mammoth Mountain was named the top three “Most Visited Ski Resorts” and was totaling over 1 million skiers and snowboarders for that year.

Due to Dave’s visionary personality and traits as well as coming from a family revolved around heavy machinery and contracting work we now have a glorious alpine mountain do explore all season long. McCoy not only started a ski area that is known around the world, he also provided an adventurous mountain to bike, hike, horseback, rock climb, and much more during spring, summer, and fall. By believing in his dreams and the potential he saw, Dave gave back to the California community tremendously by providing thousands of jobs and housing opportunities to the locals of the sate and neighboring towns such as June Lake and Bishop.

In 1930 Dave worked for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) as a “snow surveyor/hydrographer”. He soon learned that just a few miles from where he grew up (Independence, CA) was a massive dormant volcano and skiing down volcanic chutes couldn’t get any better than that. One snowy day, he parked his Ford Model A at the base of one of the chutes at Mammoth Mountain and tied a rope to rear of the car and the other end of the rope to a sturdy tree trunk. This gave him the ability to travel up the chute of the mountain and ski down. This was known as the “First Rope Tow” on the mountain, which he charge 50 cents for visitors to use. As he found this was a profitable and fun endeavor, he started to work with heavy machinery to develop a more sophisticated rope tow.

Soon after he had the vision to build a diesel powder tow that could transport 1,800 skiers from the bottom to the top of the mountain within one hour. In 1955 McCoy was three months ahead of his deadline and completed his very own chairlift that was 3,400 feet long with a total of 86 chairs.

Over the years of discovering this mountain range, developing the first rope tow, to a powdered chairlift, Dave kept on expanding the mountain and ski potential with the help of his friends, family and his creative and intuitive mindset he put the unthinkable and unattainable to reality. To this day people still travel near and far to experience the town he created and the mountain he founded. His vision, his story, and his legendary ski area operation will live on.