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Dave McCoy

Hall of Fame Class of 1967

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Dave McCoy became an icon of the Eastern Sierra as the developer of Mammoth Mountain and a coach to many of America’s best skiers.

Dave’s business fame stems from his grassroots method of developing Mammoth Mountain into a world-famous ski area. His passion for skiing drove his business decisions. During 1935-36, his first winter in the Eastern Sierra, Dave and his friends built a portable rope tow which was quite possibly the first rope tow ever used in the region. By 1937 he had secured a job as a hydrographer for the DWP but he spent his free time skiing, helping local ski clubs with their rope tows and building tows of his own which he ran mostly on the northern slopes of the Mammoth Mountains.

In 1941 Dave asked his new wife, Roma Carriere, to collect fifty cents per skier for a day of riding their rope tow (reason being that the newlyweds did not have any money to buy food). After the war Dave welcomed home veterans with two permanent rope tows he had built on McGee Mountain and a 1946 Memorial Day race off the top of Mammoth using five tandem portables. By 1948 he had installed two “temporary tows in a permanent location” on Mammoth. He received a Forest Service permit to build a chairlift on Mammoth by default because no other investors had made a bid on the1953 prospectus. Consensus was that Mammoth Mountain was too high, too windy, too remote, too dangerous and that it had too odd of a shape.

With six children and a wife to feed, Dave gave up his hydrographic job with the DWP and focused his energy on building Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. It took grit, mechanical creativity and a little bit of magic but Dave and his small crew of devoted workers opened Chair Lift One right on schedule: Thanksgiving of 1955. For the next half a century, guided by his continued passion for skiing, Dave reinvested his profits to enhance the mountain for better skier service, eventually building 27 chairlifts.

Being a ski area operator complimented Dave’s athleticism and competitive spirit (characteristics that had surfaced at a young age). In 1935 he declined four football scholarships to pursue his dream of living in the Eastern Sierra. In April, 1942 while competing in the California State Championships at Sugar Bowl he shattered his leg and refusing to accept the doctor’s recommendation for amputation and struggled through a long and tedious recovery. Eventually he made it back to the racecourse, winning the title of California State Slalom Champion in 1949. He continued to ski race through his seventies, walking away with several Master’s Championship trophies. At the age of 88 he could still be seen taking twenty-mile mountain bike rides and spending hours racing his motorcycle up and down Eastern Sierra dirt roads.

As one of the best ski racers in the Eastern Sierra, Dave fell into the role of ski coach to local skiers. His positive attitude and sensitivity to the individual proved successful. He guided Charlotte Zumstein to national skiing fame in the forties and Jill Kinmont and Linda Meyers in the fifties. By the mid-sixties, skiers from all over the country flocked to join his program. Nineteen racers, including his children (Penny McCoy won a bronze medal in the 1966 World Championships and his son, Dennis McCoy, was one of the top downhillers in the world from 1966 to 1972), advanced to international levels of competition. Almost the entire United States National Women’s Ski Team consisted of Mammoth girls for several years. One of his racers, Jean Saubert, who won two medals in the 1964 Olympics, later said “Dave was by far the best coach I ever had”.

Dave McCoy was elected to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 1967.

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