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Late Ski Pioneer Dave McCoy, 104, Declared the Winner at Life
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OK, it’s officially over. Try as you might, you won’t have a better life than Dave McCoy, beloved founder of Mammoth Mountain ski resort, who has died at age 104.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Dave McCoy, who gave skiers and boarders Mammoth Mountain, has died at 104

FEB. 8, 2020 6:12 PM

Dave McCoy, a towering pioneer of the California ski industry, who with vision, hard work and a knack for the mechanical transformed a remote Sierra peak into the storied Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, has died. He was 104. …

Mammoth was one of the three most visited ski resorts in 2018, drawing about 1.21 million skiers and boarders, most of whom drove there on weekends from Southern California.

Shortly after graduating from high school, he moved to Independence, an eastern Sierra hamlet where they still talk about his speeding along Highway 395 on a brown and yellow Harley Davidson with a red bandana tied around his head. …

In the late 1930s, McCoy landed work as a snow surveyor for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. As a city hydrographer, he concluded that skiing didn’t come any better than on the massive extinct volcano with steep chutes on all sides that caught storms like a sail.

About the time the first big ski resort in the U.S. opened, Sun Valley in Idaho, McCoy got a government job skiing around the High Sierra backcountry with long bamboo poles to measure how deep the snowpack was. He noticed that for some reason, Mammoth Mountain gets more snow than the rest of the Sierra Nevadas. And while most of the Sierra is too jaggedly steep for ideal skiing, Mammoth Mountain is a more rounded old volcano.

And it’s easy to get to: 313 miles of mostly desert driving directly north of Los Angeles City Hall. That was a long way in 1937 but by, say, 1957 at 65 mph it was a reasonable weekend trip. The Sierra Nevada are a tilted block mountain range, which means to approach them from west requires endless driving along winding roads through the foothills, but to approach them from the east, you just roar along Highway 395 through the flat Owens Valley, and then drive a few miles straight up into the High Sierra.

In 1937, McCoy parked his Ford Model A on a slope where snow fell early and hard on Mammoth Mountain. He jacked up the rear of the car and lashed one end of a rope to the back wheel and the other to a tree.

He charged 50 cents a person for what became the first rope tow on the mountain, which usually has skiable snow from early November to early summer.

Mammoth isn’t quite a world class ski resort, but it’s a terrific mass market destination for the vast Southern California population.

Thanks, Mr. McCoy.

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  1. Anon7 says:

    OT: Why talk about snow and ski resort history when BLACK HAIR history is being made right now! The Oscar for Animated Short Film goes to…

    • LOL: Realist
  2. t says:

    OT: Complaints of racism at a Chicago High School, somehow a school that is 98 hispanic according schooldigger is toxic to anyone that is not white.

    • Replies: @Dan Hayes
    , @jimla
    , @flyingtiger
  3. Clyde says:

    As a child in the 1960s my family used to go skiing. The various areas has chairlifts and rope tows. The rope tows were crude affairs and powered by automobile engines. There was always an attendant by the free standing auto-engine and they looked like carnival workers. Reality is they were townies with gainful winter employment. We also had a wooden hulled Chris Craft, powered by an onboard Chrysler automobile engine. My job was to caulk the seams every two years. The boat had a bilge pump because some little sea water always seeped in.
    Today’s fiberglass boats don’t need this maintenance. Though fiberglass Boston Whalers were just coming on the scene.

    The rope tows took some skill to grab onto right. Do it wrong and you would end up in the snow or get rope burn, hahahahh. I went down all grades of slopes and no ski-helmets back then. The only negative was that at one ski resort they put too much syrup in the coca cola that was mixed/made in front of you on the cafeteria line. IOW the cola syrup was combined with carbonated water via a soda fountain machine, as in the old drug stores and Woolworths. None of that bs bottled or canned cola. Of course the coke cola syrup was made with sugar, not crappy synthetic fructose.

    • Replies: @Anon7
    , @Autochthon
  4. Anon 2 says:

    OT: They complained about “Oscars so white” so an Oscar for best picture
    went to Parasite, a KOREAN movie, shattering 92 years of history

  5. I’m not sure what the etiquette here about reposting is, but speaking of the lottery of life, here’s my post from February 7th.

    Happy 108th birthday, Roberta McCain!

    She’s no celebrity, but she has been something of a minor public figure at times, especially during her late son’s campaign in 2008. I can’t think of anybody else similarly moderately well-known to the public having lived to such an advanced age. Kirk Douglas was 103, as is Olivia de Havilland, but there’s a huge difference between even 103 and 108.

  6. Dave McCoy definitely won at life.

    My father would have been 97 this year. He had been a skier in the Sierras too, climbing mountiansides just to ski down. He broke his leg before I was born, when the leather lace-up boots were held to the wooden skis by a cable contraption that did not release.

    Dad was scheduled to be a volunteer on the slopes at the Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, but I was born two weeks early, so he kinda had to stay home with Mom, and me, instead. I don’t know if he ever forgave me.

  7. McCoy got a government job skiing around the High Sierra backcountry with long bamboo poles to measure how deep the snowpack was.

    I remember that Huell Howser, the late-great master of corney California travel boosterism, had an episode explaining exactly how and why these snowpack surveyors do their jobs.

    As they explained it, the snowpack is basically one big frozen reservoir. So to know how much runoff to expect in the spring they need to figure out its average depth and consistency (i.e. ratio of water to air in the ice). There is no fancy high tech solution. Just a few guys skiing across the snow, taking depth measurements with a bamboo pole, and recording the measurements in a notebook. Pretty much the same as 1936.

    • Replies: @Hypnotoad666
  8. He definitely was the genuine article, the real McCoy.

  9. Alfa158 says:

    Mammoth was the best ski mountain I have ever been on, and in the days when the McCoy family was running it, was wonderfully customer friendly for regular people. Since the corporate buyout it has become an Aspen West, a mega-development for the well-heeled. A lot of it of course was a function of environmental activism crushing new ski area development creating a limited supply of ski facilities and consequently driving up prices.
    Mineral King and the north side of Mt. Baldy were particular examples. I had a professor whose client (ironically pre-Eichner Disney)was the Mineral King developers. He told me about how those famous open borders advocates, the Sierra Club, feigned a desire to cooperate with his clients to reach a compromise and help make the new ski area environmentally sound. It turned out the Club had simply been stalling them until Senator Alan Cranston could tack a rider on a bill that would block any development at all.
    The development of the north side of Mt. Baldy was supposed to be dependent on an environmental report that would assure the project would not impact the California Big Horn Sheep. When it turns out that no one could find any Big Horns in the San Bernardino mountains, the development was blocked on the grounds that it would prevent any Big Horns from ever living there.
    The skiing sport in the US has pretty much become a status signal token for the 1%. Mammoth resort has taken on a bit of a Disney style corporate vibe but the mountain itself is just as great as ever as long as the snow-making can compensate for a era of increasing droughts, and the 200 cubic miles of magma under the area stays put.

  10. Anon[392] • Disclaimer says:

    OT: Nevada tests screwed up Iowa app, and it screws up again. Nevada says they’re not using it for the primary. App’s maker (who has Obama ties), says, “Oh, yes you are.”

    It appears the app was made by the Obama wing to deliberate ‘fix’ the nomination to keep certain people from winning. In other words, the DNC is trying to take over the state-level parties by stealth.

    Normally, I would say this will not end well. But your average Democrat has an astonishing tolerance for their own party corruption. They live in big US cities that have ridiculously corrupt Democratic governments, and they don’t care one whit. They just accept it as an unchangeable status quo. I think the people being screwed, namely the Bernie Bros, will just roll over for the DNC, though they’ll whine a little. They let Hillary screw them in 2016, and they’re the exact same set of stupid and ineffectual doormats.

    The main characteristic of Democrats and the left is their inability to solve practical problems. They live in corrupt crapholes because they don’t know how to fix them. That takes too much common sense for them.

    • Replies: @Pericles
    , @Rob
  11. Anon[380] • Disclaimer says:

    Thank God for Senator Cranston. He took on Disney, perhaps using some of the tricks he learned during the Hitler vs Cranston litigation. How many people can say they were personally sued by Hitler?

    Mineral King was, and I assume remains, a beautiful and relatively pristine backpacking destination, and there are great cross country, off trail options. Great memories.

  12. @Alfa158

    The north side of 10,064′ Mount Baldy is pretty awesome for being only 40 miles from downtown LA … but it looks to me to be too steep for skiing. You want a concave-shaped mountain that flattens out at the bottom so you can come to a stop, but the north face of Baldy is more convex shaped and gets steeper the further down you go, which sounds really dangerous.

  13. Pericles says:

    Future US general election writ small.

  14. Graham says:

    The first time I saw people skiing was here in England. A snowy Easter in the Cotswold hills, probably in 1966. Someone had jacked up a Land Rover and used it to power a rope tow. Didn’t start skiing myself till 1981 but have skied every season since then (not in UK, natch: Switzerland mostly). RIP Dave McCoy. Must ski in America again some time.

  15. A_Genius says:

    >>> In 1937, McCoy parked his Ford Model A on a slope where snow fell early and hard on Mammoth Mountain. He jacked up the rear of the car and lashed one end of a rope to the back wheel and the other to a tree.

    >>> He charged 50 cents a person for what became the first rope tow on the mountain, which usually has skiable snow from early November to early summer.

    Just have to point out that if, in fact, he lashed one end of a rope to the back wheel of his car and the other end of the rope to a tree it would definitely not work as a tow rope. Does the writer have no common sense at all?

  16. @Alfa158

    Skiing gets a bad rap as being expensive. It certainly CAN be, for sure. And the initial gear acquisition is pricey, no doubt. But it doesn’t HAVE to be unaffordable.
    In New England, there are mountains owned by the State (and even a few owned by the County!) that give steep discounts to local residents.
    (Imagine that! A political polity favoring its citizens over others!)
    A classic example is Cannon Mountain, among the very best on the East Coast, has 50% off for NH residents and for military a season pass is sub $250. It’s affordable enough that a raggedy family of sometimes “farmers” and sometimes Dead Head hippies could send their kid there on their paltry incomes and high enough quality that it provided their kid- Bode Miller- a training platform to absolutely dominate down hill skiing for over a decade.
    250/a year to legit Olympic quality training grounds is hardly “1%er”

    • Replies: @Alfa158
  17. Anon7 says:

    Before skiing was an industry, it sounded like more fun. My mom would go to northern Michigan around Boyne to ski on the big hills (not mountains, although that’s what they’re called) in the early 1940’s. Rope tows only, of course, and since there were no resorts you’d need to stay with local families who had a spare bedroom.

    Now, of course, they’ve got Swiss-style chalets and real estate scam time shares and the inevitable indoor water park trying to make something of the place in the summer. And wintertime indentured servants from Austria to help your kids learn to snowboard (“Gut morgen, itz a beautivul day today, fife degrees und lake evect sznow!”)

    • Replies: @The Wild Geese Howard
  18. jimla says:

    ” toxic to anyone that is not white.” Does that mean they do respect their White teachers and Administrators?or, unlike White students, they don’t give a them about Black victimhood and expected deference.

    At any rate, it’s well deserved. They kept on voting for mass immigration Democrats. They voted to be replaced. So they better prepare for when Hispanics are a third of USA population and a much higher teen % nationally. The Blacks blew it. They had White-guilt the productive population into putting up with their shenanigans as penance and they supported policies and a Party that led to their replacement by Hispanics and by actual Africans.

  19. @Hypnotoad666

    Actually, here’s the link to the 1995 episode about the Eastern Sierra snowpack survey.

  20. It’s an interesting article. He worked his way up through various hard labor jobs before he got his job as an hydrographer, which led him to Mammoth and his life altering observation and break. Question: today, is there a career path for a poor white boy up through similar pathways? The answer is likely not, except perhaps through the military. A modern Dave McCoy would be shutout of most blue collar openings and end up on opioids. Well, a lesser McCoy; this one had relentless determination.

  21. @t

    Those Mexicans sure are racist.

  22. Rob says:

    In my fantasies, I think Sanders should make it clear to the DNC that if there are any more shenanigans, even if plausibly due to incompetence rather than malice, then he will run as an independent. An independent Sanders campaign would likely draw off more booty gig votes than Trump votes, and so hand the election to Trump. That might not be an effective threat, though. I think the DNC would prefer a Trump victory to a Bernie victory. Even though if dem-Sanders won, he would have little institutional support, and would be unlikely to get much legislation through.

    • Replies: @The Wild Geese Howard
  23. Jmaie says:

    Mammoth, ahh how I’ve missed ye’.

    I have a picture of my mother standing on a deck there, with a few gents hanging around (’cause mom was a hottie) taken back in the late ’40’s. Snow was about even with the bottom of the deck, which in the summer was off the second story. You definitely had to WANT to get there in those days.

    Last time I was there was in the early 90’s so not yet Disney-fied. As I pulled into the parking lot I could hear the howitzers going off – used for avalanche control. That this was necessary in July was a wondrous thing.

    Coldest I’ve ever been was there, can’t remember exactly when but call it sometime mid-’80’s – the temperature (with windchill) had been -80F, later updated to only -79F. As compared to Big Bear where it usually hit 50F by mid-morning.

    I hope Angels BBQ is still there. Whiskey Creek as well.

    ” Yeah though I cruise down STEEP MOUNTAINS at 40mph with no idea what’s behind the next switchback I SHALL FEAR NO EVIL because AT 11,053 FEET there isn’t enough oxygen for my brain TO UNDERSTAND FEAR anyway.”

    Still have the tee shirt.


  24. Dr. X says:

    Somehow I don’t think McCoy would have been able to build his ski empire if California had been overrun with Mexican peasants and governed by liberal nutjobs in the 1950s…

  25. @Buzz Mohawk

    My father would have been 97 next month.

    He didn’t ski himself, but he was quite happy to take us to Tahoe almost every year, where we kids(and my mother) skied happily away.

    Speaking of legs and skies: when I was about 12 I stood up from one of my many falls and, looking down, saw that while one ski pointed, say, directly north, the other pointed equally directly south.

    Those 12 year old bones didn’t even feel the strain.

  26. @Clyde

    And you wore an onion on your belt, because that was the style then….

  27. danand says:

    “but speaking of the lottery of life”
    “Kirk Douglas was 103

    PiltdownMan, Kirk’s son is out on the stump for Bloomberg. How long is the DNC going to let the circus go on before they declare Bloomberg the nominee? It’s not like this is his exploratory/practice run. For Michael Rubens Bloomberg born 1942 (age 77), it’s now or never, even if 80 is the new 70.

    “Michael Douglas said of Mike Bloomberg, “This is a rare moment. I haven’t felt like this since John Kennedy.”

    Douglas came to Wisconsin a day after burying his father, actor Kirk Douglas, who died Wednesday at age 103.

    Douglas thanked supporters for their condolences and prayers to his family and said he and his father talked often about sports and politics.

    When Bloomberg announced he was running for president, Douglas said his father was excited about his prospects.

    “I don’t know if he was pulling my leg or not, but one of the last words he said in the hospital … he asked me to lean close to him,” Douglas said. “And I leaned close to him and he looked at me and said, ‘Mike can get it done.’”

    My buddy since high school, an older neighborhood friend/acquaintance, and I took a trip ski Mammoth ~30 years back. The three of us flew in my buddies Beech Debonair leaving SJC flying down to the Mammoth/Yosemite Airport, MMH. The skiing was fine for me, (I’m just as not so good at downhill skiing as I am at golf), but my companions gave it high praise. The memorable aspect of that trip were the white out IFR conditions, made for one wild ride!

  28. @Rob

    In my fantasies, I think Sanders should make it clear to the DNC that if there are any more shenanigans, even if plausibly due to incompetence rather than malice, then he will run as an independent.

    I think Bernie might just be too polite (cucked?) to do this.

    Mayor Bootygig is clearly the annointed candidate of the billionaire/CEO-Homo axis.

    Bootygig has also been chosen because he is the most emotionally, mentally, morally, psychologically, and spiritually humiliating possible candidate for deplorable white males.

  29. Kyle says:

    I wonder what the other two most frequented ski resorts are? Probably one in Utah and one in Colorado. I’m guessing Alta because it’s a state park and the city bus goes there, and it’s a bit cheaper than the commercial resorts and probably the best skiing in the world. But they don’t allow snow boarders so maybe not. The other one is probably Breckinridge in Colorado. It’s close to Denver and all of the other resorts and it’s massive. A dark hose would be killington in Vermont. It’s massive in its own right and a reasonable drive from nyc. But skiing kinda sucks in the east, the mountains are too steep and icy and it’s too cold and windy.

    • Replies: @The Wild Geese Howard
  30. @Anon7

    I grew up skiing in Northern Michigan.

    The current ticket prices are obscene.

    Day tickets at classic resorts in the Alps cost 60% of what they ask for to ski on some 400 ft hills in Michigan.

  31. @Kyle

    But they don’t allow snow boarders so maybe not.

    For good reason:

    A dark hose would be killington in Vermont. It’s massive in its own right and a reasonable drive from nyc.

    Everyone legit knows that Jay Peak is by far the best mountain in VT and probably the Northeast:

  32. Thumbs Up says:

    THANK YOU MR. McCoy👌


  33. “Government job,” eh? Parasite more like it. Where are the libertarians when you need ’em?

  34. Alfa158 says:

    Mammoth Mountain one day lift ticket; at the window $182; buy a week in advance $145.
    Season pass is a deal I’ll admit, $1400 and on good years you can ski from November through June.
    Supply and demand, scarcity drives prices here.

  35. I grew up in Sierra Madre, Pasadena, and Arcadia from the mid 70’s to the mid 80’s. My family were big skiers so we’d go to Mammoth, Snow Summit, or Mt. Baldy a few times a year.

    Good times

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