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:
By LOUIS SAHAGUN STAFF WRITER
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.