McCoy bought a small airline to fly a few skiers from Burbank, California to Mammoth.

From Mammoth Mountain Resort – History
He went to the bank, attempting to acquire an $85 loan to set up a permanent rope tow. The bank turned him down but the bank’s secretary, Roma, urged the bank to give him that loan. A few years later, McCoy would marry Roma and the two would raise six children together.”


An excerpt from Book Five in “The Knowledge Path Series” dedicated to helping you find the place of your dreams in the Sierra Mountain resorts.


That night we shared our tale around the flaming bonfire smoking and sparking and launching glowing embers like fireflies into the deep dark starlit skies.

Embellished of course.

And, Dave McCoy wasn’t too far removed from the conversation, although everyone in the family knew him as the iconic figure who left his imprint on Mammoth Mountain and its town Mammoth Lakes.

No one else knew how close we were that night to his first mountain slope, or that he married Roma, the secretary of the bank that turned him down for an $85 loan.

That, and so much more.

Wikipedia fills in some of the details:

In 1938, McCoy got a permit and set up a primitive rope tow using parts from a Model “A” Ford truck on McGee Mountain, near US Highway 395

He went to the bank, attempting to acquire an $85 loan to set up a permanent rope tow. 

The bank turned him down but the bank’s secretary, Roma, urged the bank to give him that loan. 

A few years later, McCoy would marry Roma and the two would raise six children together. 

After swapping yarns at the bonfire we returned to our cabin and when I flicked on the light I noticed something for the first time.

Not too far from the old-time stove-heater sporting the black rounded angle “Z” stove pipe leading to the roof.

Not too far from the 14 bullet points on “Welcome to Rock Creek” rules of the road.

And not too far from the “Welcome to the Cabin” painting on wood with a an idyllic lake side setting with a deer drinking water at the water’s edge.

A ‘30s or ‘40s era gray pickup truck sat next to a log cabin with yellow lights casting a glow on the ground and with steps leading down to a canoe and dock.

I wondered if a local artist painted it and Rock Creek Lodge lent its support.

But, what caught my eye was the third piece hanging on the brown paneled wall.

A photo of three circling birds of prey, dark brown with black tipped wings.

The glare from the cabin lights masked a faint full moon directly behind the dominant hawk in a dark blue mountain sky.

In the foreground filling in the lower two-thirds of the shot you notice brown and white and gray rock formations with little else.

Except in the lower right, there it is.

Scribbled over a brown boulder Dave McCoy’s signature.

And, not part of the photo, but haphazardly fastened to it, a description:

Photo by Dave McCoy written in cursive script.

This photo was taken by Dave McCoy, the founder of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area.  The proceeds from this image will be donated to the Mammoth Lakes Foundation, which supports higher education and cultural enrichment in the Eastern Sierra.

A former co-worker of mine tells a story about her boy friend chatting it up on the gondola taking him to the top of Mammoth Mountain where he’d ski down the Cornice.

During the conversation, Dave McCoy’s came up.

The gondola rider asked if he’d like to meet him.

Figuring it was just a conversation and nothing else, said “Sure.”

“When? What are you doing after the run?”

“Wait,” the boyfriend said, “This is Thanksgiving holiday weekend.”

No problem.

Dave (he called McCoy a nickname that my friend couldn’t recall in the telling of the story) won’t mind, he said.

Completely unannounced, the Gondola BFF walked up to Dave’s porch and yelled that he was there with two new BFFs in tow.

From “How I Did It … ” Inc. Magazine. CREDIT: Bryce Duffy

To my friend’s amazement Dave appeared, welcomed them into his Bishop ranch, piled them into his ATV and took them on a tour across his “back 40.”

“He really didn’t seem to care,” she said. “Even though his kids, grandkids and great grandkids were arriving at any moment.”

Maybe living all those years in the high altitude living a vigorous life is the formula for a  long life and marriage.

Wikipedia fills in some details.

Dave and Roma from Mammoth Lakes Foundation

McCoy turned 100 in August 2015. His wife Roma turned 95.

McCoy currently enjoys traveling in the Eastern Sierra driving an ATV. 

He has always enjoyed photography and that is what he does today. 

His mission is to take pictures of places very few people have even seen. 

Dave’s pictures can be bought at local stores in Bishop and Mammoth and other local towns. 

All of the proceeds go directly to the Mammoth Lakes Foundation, which helps develop education and the arts in the Eastern Sierra. 

Mammoth Lakes Foundation from its website

“The family and the community were always a big part of our success, as they helped play in the big sandbox as well,” McCoy says. 

“It shows that no man does anything alone. 

Now, my camera’s eye keeps making the Eastern Sierra a place for all of us to enjoy.”

Back in the 1940s the climate shifted and McGee Mountain received less snow than when Dave pioneered Eastern Sierra skiing.

Eastern Sierra Ski Club at McGee Creek Lift in 1938. Courtesy of Pomona Public Library


Where did the heavy snow fall?

Why, Mammoth Mountain, of course.

He set up his second rope tow there just as WWII was fought, in 1942.

But enough about that.

For now.

What about his story? “Dave McCoy – World Class Skier, Entrepreneur, and Visionary”

According to legend, and Wikipedia, Dave first fell in love with the Eastern Sierras when he visited roughly 87 or 88 years ago.

He loved it so much that in shop class he fashioned his first pair of skis.

During his adolescent years he had to move to the state of Washington to live when his parents split up.

The Great Alf Andersen from Wikipedia

There he lived with his grandparents.

There he encountered Norwegian ski jumpers.

And, there they fanned the spark into a flame that began in junior high school.

Here’s the Wikipedia part.

Right after graduating from high school, he moved to the tiny town of Independence, California

Two years later, he moved a few miles north to Bishop. 

In 1936, McCoy took a job as a hydrographer for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which involved skiing up to 50 miles per day.

Courtesy Mammoth Lakes Foundation

While being a hydrographer, he joined the Eastern Sierra Ski Club. At age 22, he became the California State Champion in skiing.

For the decade roughly between 1942 and 1953 the startup struggle phase of Mammoth Mountain ski area’s tested his entrepreneurial meddle.

Luckily for him the Forest Service offered by bid the right to operate the ski area.

Lucky, because nobody bid on the permit.

From Mammoth Mountain Resort – History

Without any money, he didn’t bid either.

But, they must have recognized the fire burning brightly in him, because in 1953 they gave him the permit nobody bid on but, with one stipulation.

He had to develop the mountain as a ski resort.


Can you imagine how he must have felt?

An entrepreneur’s dream almost handed to him.

From Mammoth Mountain Resort – History

By 1953 a ski lodge opened.

He incorporated as Mammoth Mountain Ski Area two years later.

But all wasn’t deep powder and awesome runs.

Wikipedia describes how McCoy struggled to develop Mammoth.

The “lodge” was actually only 12′ by 24′, had a dirt floor with an outside toilet, and served snacks. 

The McCoy family used it as a home during the early years of Mammoth.[

McCoy went to the bank again for a loan of $135,000 to build a chair lift. 

Again, he was turned down. 

Somewhere he found a used chairlift.

From Mammoth Mountain Resort – History

With his dedicated Mammoth maniacs Dave worked feverishly digging holes and mixing concrete to permanently anchor the lift by themselves.

Chair 1 became operational just in time for Thanksgiving in 1955.

Chair 1 had a wooden ramp, covered with snow, that skiers had to side-step up to reach the chairs. 

Sometimes skiers would lose their balance and cause several of the skiers in line below to topple over like dominoes. 

But, it worked.

And it was definitely a platform he could build on over the next four decades.

Our family remembers the early days of the next phase in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

The ramp was removed sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s and a new high-speed Chair 1 was installed and renamed “Broadway Express.” 

The original main lodge was expanded and to this day, the upper part of the old exterior rock wall mural, with a white and brown flagstone arrow, can be seen sitting on the deck. 

By 1973, under McCoy’s leadership, the ski area grew to 14 double-chairs, and a second base lodge was built. 

The drive from Southern California region to the mountain required a dedication on the part of skiers and eventually boarders, because Mammoth wasn’t a destination ski resort.

Well, not yet anyway

What did Dave do?

McCoy bought a small airline to fly a few skiers from Burbank, California to Mammoth.

Mammoth Yosemite Airport from Wikipedia

The growth of the ski area led to growth of the town of Mammoth Lakes, California, which incorporated in 1984.

And the rest was history.


(32) Plan extended seasonal vacations during summer and winter months. Group destination locations together in regional trips to explore what several bucket list towns have to offer in the general vicinity – with only a week or two vacation time to spend, we recommend organizing your itinerary by travel regions.

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