Dave McCoy - Mammoth Mountain founder, coach

Passing Date

Dave McCoy, founder of Mammoth Mountain and coach to a generation of American ski racers, died February 9 at age 104.

Born in El Segundo, California, McCoy began traveling to the eastern Sierra at age 13. While living with his grandparents in Washington State, he made a pair of skis in a high school shop class, and hung out with a group of Norwegian skiers. After high school he returned to California and settled in Bishop, working in a local restaurant, where he met his girlfriend, Roma Carriere. At age 20 he joined the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power as a hydrographer, skiing into the high Sierra to measure snowpack. Meanwhile he joined the Eastern Sierra Ski Club and began winning races.

In 1938 he built a temporary rope tow on McGee Mountain, and applied for a loan to build a permanent installation. Roma, by then a teller at the local bank, talked her boss into writing an $85 loan. In 1941 Dave and Roma were married.

In 1942 the couple moved the rope tow operation to Mammoth Mountain, where snow was more reliable. The local population could be counted on the fingers of one hand. By 1953 McCoy had a permit from the Forest Service and put up a tiny lodge, which also served as the McCoy home. The first chairlift – purchased used and installed by a crew of volunteers – went up in 1955.

In addition to building the resort into a behemoth, and raising six kids, McCoy developed young racers. His protogees included (in no special order) Jill Kinmont, Jimmie Heuga, Ni Orsi, Jean Saubert, Linda Meyers, Joan Hannah, Rosi Fortna, Karen Korfanta, Bev Anderson and his daughter Penny McCoy.

In 2005, at age 89, McCoy announced his retirement and sold Mammoth for $365 million to Starwood Corp. He continued skiing and motorcycling until knee replacement surgery in 2008. --Seth Masia