An outdoorsy lifestyle and fun-loving spirit kept Mammoth founder Dave McCoy on the slopes into his nineties

Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort’s Founder Turns 100, and He Only Stopped Skiing a Few Years Ago
Dave McCoy doing what he does best: skiing and smiling.
(Photos courtesy of Dave McCoy.)

Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort founder Dave McCoy turns 100 today, and to celebrate, he’s launching a $100 for 100 campaign through his Mammoth Lakes Foundation, the non-profit he founded to support higher education in the Eastern Sierra.

The aim is to get one hundred people to donate $100 by the end of today. If that happens, McCoy will match their donations at 100%. All the proceeds will go to the foundation.

Related: Why Mammoth Mountain Is the Ski Destination You Need to Visit This Winter

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We caught up with the centenarian at his Bishop, California home to learn the secrets of his longevity and success—and, of course, to wish him a happy hundredth!

Sunset: Okay, first things first: You only stopped skiing a few years ago. How have you stayed so active and fit?

McCoy: You know, turning 100, you just have to take it as it comes. That and have fun. Always have fun.

Sunset: And you still keep a pretty busy schedule, working with the foundation and, I hear, inventing.

McCoy: That’s right. I’m making an electric vehicle right now. It’s better than anything on the market—it’s good for six hours. It’ll go 80 or 90 miles an hour.

Sunset: Any plans to put that on the market?

McCoy: No way—I’m busy! I’m retired. I don’t want to get into business. I’ve been in monkey business all my life. Now’s the time when I can just have fun. I’ve always had fun—now I can have even more.

Sunset: So you were born in L.A. and went to high school in Washington state. How’d you land in Southern California?

McCoy: I hitchhiked here from Washington. I had the last 50 cents in my pocket when I landed in Independence, CA, and I went to work in a restaurant. So then I had food, a place to go, and people to have fun with.

Sunset: And you got to ski, too, right?

McCoy: I was just learning how to ski then. I made a pair of skis with some boards, slapped them on my feet, and went and had some fun with friends. There was nobody living here in the wintertime then. I think there were just six people living in Mammoth when I got started.

McCoy testing the Sierra terrain, in the 1940s. Photo courtesy of Dave McCoy

Sunset: So how did you decide to start a ski area?

McCoy: Everybody said it was impossible—that Mammoth was too far away, it was too cold, it was too high. And the minute they said ‘You can’t,’ that’s when I decided I would.

Sunset: What was the area like back then? Was there any infrastructure?

McCoy: I started with a little portable rope tow, and people would hang on to that [to get up the mountain]. We had all kinds of fun.

McCoy ski racing in the 1940s. Photo courtesy of Dave McCoy

Sunset: Fast forward a few decades, and Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort is now one of the biggest in the country. Is that success what led to you founding the Mammoth Lakes Foundation?

McCoy: You know, the town of Mammoth grew from six people to three or four hundred people. Then those people were having children and trying to live in this territory. I thought, the best thing to do would be to have a school or a college right here where they live. So that’s what we did. A lot of people believed in me and helped make it happen, and now we have a beautiful school in a beautiful location and room for a bigger set up.

Sunset: Last but not least: Happy birthday! How are you planning on celebrating tonight?

McCoy: It’s going to be great. We’ll have the family up here—just McCoy family, including my wife—and I’m thinking it’ll be about 60 people. I feel lucky.

Dave and his wife, Roma McCoy. They’ve been together for 74 years. Photo courtesy of Dave McCoy

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