About Dave McCoy and Mammoth Mountain, California

Dave’s Journey to the Sierra

In White Pass, Washington on logging roads with Norwegian miners and loggers, Dave McCoy, the founder of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, started skiing. That was almost 80 years ago. Using leather boots with toe straps, seven-foot long skis with no edges and canvas pants and jackets that “didn’t amount to much” in bitter weather, Dave McCoy began his journey.

He lived a nomadic lifestyle with his family along the West Coast, stopping wherever there was work and he ended up in Independence in 1935, working as a soda jerk, dishwasher, waiter, garbage man, and do-everything-man at a popular local hangout called Jim’s Restaurant. With a passion for skiing, he began trekking through the Eastern Sierra in Inyo and Mono Counties, exploring and inhaling the vast environment, that carried him along then and now.

Because of his skiing ability and willingness to do jobs nobody else wanted to do, Dave McCoy was hired by The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to work on maintaining aqueducts, water metering and measuring devices, and snow surveying. He made about $4 a day traveling the entire Owen’s Valley, performing jobs for the LADWP, but he was happiest on jobs that took him beyond town and into the paradise of the rugged Sierra.

Prior to leaving LADWP, Dave began building rope tows to help local ski clubs access the mountainous terrain. During his tenure with the LADWP, Dave spent a great deal of time near Mammoth and noticed that the northern part of the valley could be great for skiing.

Building Mammoth

After 18 great years of work at LADWP, Dave left his post and began a new kind of life sharing the fun of skiing with the recreation world. But, Dave had to be busy, using his mind and his body. He installed portable rope tows on skiable terrain, starting in Independence, and working his way north to McGee Mountain and eventually, Mammoth Mountain. He continued what he considered enjoyment in Mammoth, building lifts in what he calls his “great big sandbox with good-sized toys.”

Fifty years later, after having built 38 chairlifts and more than 4,000 acres of skiable terrain between Mammoth and June Mountain, Dave left his toys and the resort industry. It was someone else’s turn to play.

Adventures in Photography and Philanthropy

During his years building the ski resort, Dave used a Leica camera to document history. From ski racing, to lift building, family and landscape photography, Dave captured it all with that camera. Then, upon his departure from the ski resort, his longtime friends gave him a gift that would define his post-ski-resort management years and give his passion for life a different path on which to travel.

“Instead of a watch, they gave me a digital camera,” McCoy says.

A longtime motorcycle enthusiast, bike rider and backpacker,  Dave and his wife Roma now spend much of their time traversing the Eastern Sierra on Rhinos, which are side-by-side all-terrain vehicles. Now, with the camera, Dave could capture images from places very few people have been and even fewer have caught on camera. This evolved into more than a hobby. It became a record of life for the McCoy family, and a testament to Dave’s insatiable appetitive for truly living each day to its utmost.

With the help of the Mammoth Lakes Foundation, which Dave started in 1989 to promote education and the arts in the Eastern Sierra, Dave prints and frames many images from his massive digital catalog. Each year his photography becomes better, and his image-making process becomes more refined.

He sells much of his best work there and at several businesses around Bishop and Mammoth. He donates the proceeds to the Mammoth Lakes Foundation. The Foundation, located in Mammoth, supports education and arts in the Eastern Sierra.

“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.” And remember.

Shawn LesterAugust 31, 2014 - 6:04 pm

Hello Mr. McCoy–

I first started coming to Mammoth in the late 60′s with my family. Though I loved it then, it wasn’t until mountain biking took off, and I came to the Nationals many times in the 90′s. I even had my stepson race in 2000/2001, where he placed 4th both times. The greatest moment of my visits was always bringing my daughter, Alaina, to Mammoth, taking her up the gondola with her mom, and her many poses with Woolly. They are times I truly cherish, as Alaina went back to Heaven in 2003. Now when I ride there, I look for butterflies, the symbol for the Compassionate Friends. I even raced in last year’s Kamikaze Bike Games in her honor, riding with plate 814 for her birthday. Mr. McCoy, I feel you helped put some of the smiles on Alaina’s face when we visited Mammoth, and to be able to shake your hand and say “thank you” in person would be the greatest check-off on my bucket list. If that ever happens, great. If not, THANK YOU!!! for the smiles Alaina will always be remembered for.

Shawn
Alaina’s daddy

Paul RosenfieldJanuary 13, 2014 - 10:29 am

Dave: I met you many times when I was a kid skiing with my uncle, Dave Rosenfield, who became a certified instructor at Mammoth and at the old Snow Summit. My uncle, who passed last year at 91 and was active to the end, always spoke highly of you, Ross Moor, Tommy Tindel and others who were involved in skiing from the early fifty’s and before. I read an article about you today and was pleased to see you are doing well.
After 45 years involved in the ski patrol and then ski safety Awareness programs and other aspects, I passed the skiing gene” on to my kids who are both now outdoors men.
All the best.
Paul Rosenfield

Phil WirthDecember 18, 2013 - 1:19 pm

Dave and Roma,

This is great! This has come a long way sense I last saw your Site. I think it was the first week of it’s birth, It has really grown-up! I haven’t had time to browse it Yet, but I want to see if I can add some picture4s for you and steel some for me.

I would like to come up to wonderland and do a little skiing, and maybe get out in the rooks. I have had some health issues. So I’ve not been up to par. I’ve been in the hospital 5 times in the last 4 mounts, but it seems that the good doctors have found the problems, and fixed what they can, and meds for what they can’t. The best thing about the whole episode is that I have lost about 27 pounds. I’ve been trying to do that for about 60 years, and I’m going to keep it Off!!!

Anyway You folks have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year, and I’ll see you later, God welling!

Take care of your selves,

Phil Wirth

John W. MacleanJune 26, 2013 - 6:55 am

Dave: I wanted to let you know that one of your livelong friends of the old Mammoth days – “Tom Johnson” – has died. Tom passed away in the hospital apparently on either Friday or Saturday, June 21-22, 2013. Tom was one of the avid photographers in the Camera Club of Laguna Hills, Laguna Woods, CA, and was the expert in all things in the Photo Lab in Clubhouse #4. As far as I can figure Tom must have been in his ninety’s. Many times he spoke of you Dave, and his days at Mammoth & life in the area. He was also an excellent photographer as you are today.
John W. Maclean, Camera Club of Laguna Hills, john@maclean.net
I have since lost your email address: I was the person that inqired about the Shirey Temple Mine high in Pine Canyon about 3 years ago.

Connie BrehmMarch 24, 2013 - 5:32 pm

I am writing on behalf of a lady named Diane who is age 74 and lives in her car with her 3 dogs (homeless). She recently told me she was invited to live with the McCoy family and provide childcare back in the 1957-59. Diane is originally from West Los Angeles and still stays in the L.A. area. I just wonder if the McCoy family might remember her and would possibly be willing to provide Diane with some financial assistance to take her out of homelessness. Diane is no 74 yaers old and finding it increasingly difficult to live in her car. From: Connie Brehm RN, Nurse to the Homeless. My nursing work is affiliated with East San Gabriel Valley Coalition for the Homeless http://www.esgvchomeless.org , a 501c3 charitable organization.

Martin StrudwickFebruary 6, 2013 - 4:23 pm

Thanks Dave!

Thanks for the legacy you started and still remains today.

Mammoth has been a great adventure for two generations of the Strudwick family.

Martin Strudwick

larry jonesJanuary 20, 2013 - 12:52 pm

DEAR DAVE,YOU WOULD NOT REMEMBER ME I FIRST MET YOU AND KANDI IN 1954 SKIING I WAS FORTUNITE TO SKI WITH GUS WEBER OVER THE YEARS AS KIDS I SKIIED WITH KANDI MANY DAYS MY DAD GOT ME ON SKIIS WHEN I WAS 4 AT MAMMOTH IN THOSE DAYS WE WOULD SIT ON LODGE ROOF SNOW WAS SO DEEP ENTER IN FROM 3RD FLOOR IT WAS WONDERFUL ALWAYS SEEING YOU AND ROMA AND YOUR KIDS GARY AND DENNIS ,I GOT A JOB OVER THE YEARS AT THE LIFTS IS DON SHARP AND BOB COPPER STILL AROUND I KNEW VIC LAWRENCE ALSO ,MY FREIND RON GIDDINGS WAS AN INSTRUTOR THERE,IT IS SO NICE TO SEE YOU AND ROMA HOW IS KANDI BY THE WAY SHE WAS ALL WAYS SO PRETTY WISH I COULD HAVE MET HER WHEN WE WHERE OLDER,HOPE YOUALL ARE OK AND HOPE TO GET UP THERE SOON TO SKI MYBE THIS YEAR,SO GREAT TO SEE ALL THE PICS VERY NICE I WILL LOOK MORE TO SEE SOME OLDER ONES.THANKS FOR ALL THE MEMMORIES,LARRY.

SteveDecember 27, 2012 - 10:49 pm

What an amazing life. Pure destiny. So good. So bad. So crazy. So little. So much. Beyond belief.

Tamyra WallaceDecember 2, 2012 - 8:43 am

Dave,
I started as a lift operator in 1980 then worked in the Marketing Dept. with Evan and Pam. It was the most fun I’ve ever had working on the mountain in the beautiful Sierra’s. You picked me up many times as I was hitchhiking up the mountain and actually inspired me to get my degree in Recreation and Resort Management from Long Beach State. I have lived in Colorado now for 20 years and my love affair with skiing continues. I have so many fond memories of my time in Mammoth and am glad to hear that you and Roma are still doing well.
Tamyra

Thomas DalyOctober 20, 2012 - 9:45 pm

Dave and Roma,
My love of the Eastern Sierra exists because of you two and a tow rope. Your photos are an expression of your love for each other and the land that brought you together. Thank you.

ChristineOctober 15, 2012 - 1:51 am

Dave,

Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful artwork. Have you ever considered offering photographic tours to those of us who admire your work? What an honor that would be! Looking forward to your Fall 2012 postings.

Rob ScanlandSeptember 13, 2012 - 5:33 pm

Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful photos of the Eastern Sierra. I am the great nephew of John and Barbara Haddaway and as a kid always enjoyed hearing their stories about adventures with the McCoys. I inherited their great love of the Eastern Sierras and the Great Basin and also some of their wonderful artwork. Thanks for bringing back some great memories.
Rob Scanland
Carson City, Nevada

Cheryl M.June 10, 2012 - 11:34 am

I was cleaning out my in-laws house in February and stumbled upon a tattered old book titled “The Other Side of the Mountain.” I vaguely remember seeing the movie as a kid and was curious to read Jill’s inspiring story.
The other day my husband and I were discussing the book. He asked if she was still living.I Googled her online, only to discover she’d passed the month I’d discovered the book!
What impressed me most about her story, was not her drive to overcome tragedy,but the unique bond between members of this skiing community. Despite Jill’s inability to actively participate, she was supported by this community and remained a friend for life; including your undying friendship Dave. How beautiful!

Susan TubbsMarch 7, 2012 - 7:45 am

Dave….Would it be possible to talk with you over the phone regarding Jill Kinmont and some of your memories of her? I’m preparing a presentation on her life to the Rainbow Girls at their annual convention. A motivational speech about this former Rainbow Girl and the possibilities for young girls to exceed in life. You would be such an inspiration for me in this project. Seeing your name again after all these years and the pictures you put together of her, wow…what a friend and amazing person you are with this….

Susan Tubbs/805-415-9600 (cell) or I could call you? My email is posted above but is labsusan@yahoo.com.

JasonJanuary 30, 2012 - 8:11 pm

Just stumbled upon your site via Facebook. WOW! Great photos Dave and thank you for sharing all of them! I especially enjoyed the pics of Mammoth from the late 50′s…
You are indeed a great man.

alan roachDecember 25, 2011 - 7:14 pm

GREAT JOB, AFTER I’M SURE A HELL OF A LOT OF SACARFICE! Alan Roach

Larry CraneDecember 18, 2011 - 7:51 pm

Dear Dave and Roma, my daughter Tessa starts as a liftie tomorrow morning. I am thrilled to have her on your mountain and honored to be able to make contact with you. Be well. I know you’re happy.

Penny McCoyDecember 10, 2011 - 12:18 pm

This is so so so great! Thank you Dad and Mom for the heritage you have built and given to me.

I love you,
Penny

Eleanor Bennett HaleNovember 26, 2011 - 2:47 pm

Dear Dave and Roma,

This is a voice from the past telling you that last night I talked to Dennis Agee and he told me about your wonderful web site. It is fantastic and if you have pictures of your old team I would love to be able to see them. I operate a computer about like I skied so if you have any picture of me I would love to see them and also of Smiley.

Love and admire you. You are a genius.

Eleanor Hale

Lisa ShermanSeptember 5, 2011 - 11:00 pm

Dave and Roma,
Thank you so much for a wonderful day this past Saturday. Neil and I and our entire group had such a great time rhinoiing with Dave and Sumner out of your house and loved having breakfast with you at Cascade Village. Will never forget all the great memories we have with all of you!! Love you, Lisa

Joe McGuiganDecember 20, 2010 - 5:18 pm

Dave,

I fell in love with Mammoth Mountain “way back when” in 1967. Yes, that was 43 years ago! I was a recently discharged Vietnam Veteran Marine who had fallen in love with skiing. I was a student at LA Valley College and took a part time job with Sierra Skiers in the San Fernando Valley as a tour guide. One weekend, after spending almost a week leading a group to Squaw Valley, I jumped in the car and headed up 395 to Mammoth for a couple of more days of skiing at my favorite place on earth, Mammoth. Unfortunately, on my first day back at Mammoth I took a run on the backside of the Cornice and managed to break my leg in 3 places! That in itself is a really long, and somewhat humorous, story. My point in this message has to do with what you did afterword. About a week later I received a personal letter from you that said how sorry you were about my injury etc..

Dave, I just wanted you to know that now, 43 years later, how much that meant, and still does mean, to me!!!!

If you do ever see this, my email is jjmack222000@yahoo.com.

Thank you for being the REAL man that you are!

Joe McGuigan

LeslieJune 22, 2010 - 7:47 pm

I first got to meet you through the captivating biography of your student, Jill Kinmont. Have loved following your career and am inspired by your life and your devoted relationship to Roma! THANK YOU for sharing your photos and memories through your books, photography, and this website!!

Duane Bentzen/Debbie SchaubMay 10, 2010 - 8:38 pm

Dave,

Saw your photos of Division Creek. We just missed you; we were there Sunday. Four runs on the mountain in white out conditions made us grab the camera and find warmer air down low. You took photos of the same lupine and thistles we did.

Enjoyed your photos; I think mine were even more windswept…

http://www.easternsierrasart.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=36&Itemid=73

Regards,

- Duane and Deb

J. Scott BrownFebruary 17, 2010 - 6:47 pm

Dave and Roma:

It was so wonderful to finally get a chance to meet both of you (on Monday) after having skied your mountain for almost 40 years and reading about you the whole time. You both are truly an inspiration, not only in what you accomplished with Mammoth Mountain, but in your “love affair” with each other and with your attitude towards life. I hope that my children (Turner and Ryann) got as much out of meeting you both, as I did. Hope to see you both again in the near future.

Scott

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