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TravelMammoth Ski History Information


The first ski lift built in the Mono County area was at McGee Mountain in the 1930's. It was just off highway 395 and was easily accessible by car. There were other rope tows from Independence to Bridgeport, but McGee was the favorite of the time. McGee Mountain was just the beginning of something bigger to come. The early days of skiing were quite an adventure. The pioneers of skiing were a close-knit group of rugged individualists who shared a passion for their sport. They challenged the mountain just for the fun of it. One of the early pioneers was Dave McCoy.

Dave McCoy 1950s Mammoth MountainMcCoy had visited the mountains above Independence as a boy and was impressed by the rugged beauty of the snow-clad peaks. As a member of the Eastern Sierra Club, McCoy helped to build the club's first portable rope tow. He did most of the maintenance work and kept it running. McCoy's passion for skiing kept him very active in the sport. He was an accomplished ski racer, who at the age of 22 was California State Champion.

In 1938, McCoy got a permit to operate McGee Mountain. He bought the lifts from the Eastern Sierra Ski Club for $85.00. During the winter of 1941, McCoy obtained a roving permit for this portable rope tow. He used his knowledge of the snow pack and set up his lift wherever the snow was the best. The best snow in the area was always on the northern exposure of Mammoth. McCoy knows Mammoth always got the most snow and that it lasted the longest of almost any mountain in the Sierra. Whenever the weather and road permitted, people skied on Mammoth. Over 250 skiers visited Mammoth on Thanksgiving Day 1941. The Second World War stopped the progression of skiing at Mammoth. Skiing essentially came to a halt in the Eastern Sierra.

McGee Mountain Rope TowImmediately after the war, McCoy installed his first permanent rope tow on Mammoth. At the time, a narrow, winding dirt road up to the rope tow was not plowed in the winter. Getting to the mountain was difficult. McCoy bought several World War II surplus over-snow vehicles called weasels and towed skiers up the road with ropes.

Dave and his wife Roma (Carriere) were active in the original Mammoth Mountain Ski Club and Winter Sports Association and in the first ski events. Dave also managed the McGee Ski School. In winter he moved portable rope tows here and there following the snow. In 1941, he set up his first rope tow on Mammoth Mountain. Just getting to the base was a big adventure. The Main Lodge, built in 1947, started as a small warming hut. Dave built the first permanent building on Mammoth Mountain, near the site of the first permanent ski lift at the foot of the broad, beautiful north face - a skier's paradise.

This first ski lift was known, appropriately, as Chair One. Today, Chair One (or Broadway Express) is a modern, high-speed, detachable quad chair lift, which is on of 28 lifts on Mammoth Mountain. With nearly 3,100 feet of vertical drop, 385 inches of average annual snowfall, and 300 days per year of glorious California sunshine, Mammoth offers snow sports enthusiasts a 3,500 acre (1,416 hectare) winter wonderland to explore and challenge.

Mammoth Lodge 1954The U.S. Forest Service wanted people to build and develop more ski areas in California's Sierra Nevada range. They put Mammoth Mountain up for bid. No one bid on it, including McCoy, because he did not have the money. Developers viewed Mammoth as being too risky. "They said Mammoth's elevation was too high, the mountain got too much snow and it was too far from major population area." The Forest Service awarded McCoy the permit by default on the condition that he begins developing the mountain. He already had a thriving rope-tow business. Mammoth was hosting more skiers than any other California operation, including those with chairlifts.

McCoy followed his dream and went to work building Mammoth Mountain into a ski area where many people could come to have fun. He did not do it for money, and never imagined it would grow as large as it has. He built Mammoth for the fun of it, because he has a passion for winter sports and enjoys sharing this high-alpine playground. After building his first chairlift in 1955 McCoy went on to build one of the largest ski resorts in he country.

Today, Mammoth Mountain has 3 large day lodges, 30 lifts, 2 high speed gondolas, 5 hotel properties, 3 restaurants, a large maintenance facility and some great plans for the future. In 1986, he bought nearby June Mountain. Eventually, McCoy plans to connect the two mountains, making it the largest "world-class" ski resort.

Mammoth is a year-round resort. The summer Mountain Bike Park is a popular feature attracting mountain-bike enthusiasts from around the world to challenge its trails. There are over 50 miles of mountain bike trails laid out across the mountain and more planned.

With the 1996 partnership of the Intrawest Corporation with Mammoth Mountain Ski area, the dreams are becoming a reality. The development of three new village areas: The Village at Mammoth, Sierra Star, and Juniper Springs has brought revitalization to the resort. Mammoth Mountain has already upgraded Canyon Lodge and installed the Panorama Gondola at the Main Lodge. The addition of the Mill Cafe has the capability of the mountain to provide a quality food experience for visitors. The development of the new Juniper Springs Lodge was the first new ski in/ski out accommodation at the resort. Mammoth continues to grow and migrate to a modern fashionable ski resort. Dave McCoy finally decided to retire. He sold his share to Starwood Holdings. Mammoth is now part of their brand which has made the resort even more of an exciting place to vacation. The town continues to thrive despite the economy, bad snow years and drops in real estate as the great outdoors is still everyone's favorite place to spend winter and summer.