Mammoth Mountain: The resort that Dave built celebrates a milestone

While no longer under the leadership of its founder,
the Eastern Sierra getaway is still going strong at 60

Mammoth Mountain’s original warming hut, which opened in 1953, was nicknamed “The Pit.” In part of the design, Dave McCoy incorporated a downward-pointing arrow, using black rocks from Westgard Pass, to show skiers that this was the place to be, according to the book “Tracks of Passion” by Robin Morning. (Photo courtesy Mammoth Mountain Ski Area)

Then: Mammoth Mountain’s original warming hut, which opened in 1953, was nicknamed “The Pit.” In part of the design, Dave McCoy incorporated a downward-pointing arrow, using black rocks from Westgard Pass, to show skiers that this was the place to be, according to the book “Tracks of Passion” by Robin Morning. (Photos courtesy Mammoth Mountain Ski Area)

By Jerry Rice

Mammoth Mountain.

The name says everything a skier or snowboarder needs to know about a resort with some of the country’s most desirable terrain, spread across 3,500 acres and reaching an elevation of 11,053 feet.

But for many veterans of this place, it’s more affectionately known as “Dave’s Mountain.” That’s in deference to Dave McCoy, the legendary founder of the ski area that this winter is celebrating its 60th anniversary.

Dave McCoy, founder of the Mammoth Mountain ski resort, on the slopes likely in the 1980s.

Dave McCoy, founder of the Mammoth Mountain ski resort, on the slopes likely in the 1980s.

McCoy, who was born in 1915 in El Segundo, has been in the area since 1935 when the freshly minted high school grad landed in the nearby hamlet of Independence. He started earning money as a soda jerk — the same job he was working when he met his future wife, Roma Carriere — and saved up to buy his first Harley-Davidson.

In 1937, McCoy wanted to set up a rope tow on McGee Mountain, just off Highway 395 south of Mammoth. He used his motorcycle as collateral for an $85 loan to get parts for the device, which was powered by the motor from a Ford Model A truck. Eager skiers paid 50 cents to be pulled up the hill, and a business was born.

Soon, McCoy found work as a hydrographer for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, sometimes in the winter skiing 50 miles a day to measure snow depths so officials could predict how much water would be available in the spring and summer.

“I enjoyed being outdoors all the time,” said the 98-year-old in a recent phone interview. “You enjoy life a lot more if you’re doing what you want to do.”

When the Forest Service sought bids to build a full-fledged resort in the area, McCoy used his knowledge of snowfall and snowpack trends and picked what he thought would be a prime location. In 1953, he was awarded a permanent permit to operate Mammoth Mountain. He built a warming hut that summer, and by November, shortly after the birth of their sixth child, McCoy told Roma he was quitting his job to put all of his energies into building the ski area.

Much of McCoy’s story — which is intertwined with that of the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area and the town of Mammoth Lakes — is documented in “Tracks of Passion,” written by local historian Robin Morning. In snippets of text and lots of vintage photos and illustrations, it captures the challenges McCoy et al. needed to overcome to turn a stunning mountain in a remote area into what has become a world-class destination.

More recently, that transformation included the 2003 opening of a four-story, pedestrian-oriented shopping and condominium complex, the Village at Mammoth, and then McCoy’s decision in 2005 to sell his controlling interest in the company to Starwood Capital Group for $365 million — one of the highest prices ever paid for a ski resort at that time.

Mammoth Mountain’s Main Lodge today offers all of the amenities that skiers and snowboarders have come to expect – apparel and gift shops, equipment rentals and demos, restaurants and other diversions. (Photo by Peter Morning)

Now: Mammoth Mountain’s Main Lodge today offers all of the amenities that skiers and snowboarders have come to expect – apparel and gift shops, equipment rentals and demos, restaurants and other diversions. (Photo by Peter Morning)

What makes Mammoth such a special place? Ask McCoy, and his answer is simple and direct: “The snow and the mountain.”

For many, if not most, of the 1.3 million skiers and snowboarders who frequent the resort every winter, that truly is the long and short of it.

Others may point to the fact that Mammoth Lakes is essentially a 4.5-square-mile island in the middle of hundreds of thousands of acres of undeveloped public lands. That’s a big part of the appeal for Jack Copeland, president of the Mammoth Lakes Chamber of Commerce.

“There’s no urban or suburban sprawl here,” he said. “We don’t have a cute little 19th century mining town because the ones we did have burned down in the 19th century. What we have now is close proximity to unspoiled wilderness and fabulous weather — great for summer and for winter.”

It likely will remain that way since much of the region is national forests, national parks and property overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. The DWP also is a huge player, after it bought up nearly all of the land in the Owens Basin and the accompanying water rights that stretch essentially to the foot of Mammoth Mountain.

So, in effect, one outcome of the California water wars of the early 1900s is that the region around Mammoth Lakes will never get built up like many other winter destination communities, such as the ones along Interstate 70 in Colorado or those in the vicinity of Park City, Utah.

That, Copeland adds, is a good thing.

“I know a lot of people who like Park City, but the main attraction at a lot of those other big resorts is not about skiing, it’s about retail, frankly,” he said. “We really specialize in outdoor wilderness and mountain experiences. That’s who Mammoth is for — people who want to be close to the mountains and either actively participate in recreational activities or want to relax and enjoy the view.”

It’s the same outdoors, and the same mountain, that Dave McCoy embraced all those years ago.

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5 RESORTS: NEW ON THE SLOPES

Ski and snowboard resorts invested big during the off-season. Here are highlights from five California locations. For information about resorts throughout the state, visit www.dailynews.com/travel and www.insidesocal.com/snow.

Bear Mountain
43101 Goldmine Drive, Big Bear Lake
909-866-5766, www.bearmountain.com
• What’s new: For snowboarders, the Red Bull Plaza has been revamped and now includes a city-inspired parking structure, billboard wall ride, Dumpsters, close-out rails and a multi-use object called the City Center.
• Social connections: @Bear_Mountain, www.facebook.com/BearMtn

Mountain High
24510 Highway 2, Wrightwood
888-754-7878, www.mthigh.com
 What’s new: A Rossignol Experience Center, expanded Children’s Sports Center and new snow cats and terrain features are among the more than $1 million in improvements. The current snow-making system is 30 percent more efficient than it was a decade ago, allowing the resort to make more snow than ever using fewer resources.
• Social connections: @mthigh, www.facebook.com/mthigh

Snow Summit
880 Summit Blvd., Big Bear Lake
909-866-5766, www.snowsummit.com
• What’s new: Big Bear Mountain Resorts, which owns this property and Bear Mountain, has invested more than $12 million to improve snow-making capabilities at both resorts in the past few years.
• Social connections: @Snow_Summit, www.facebook.com/SnowSmt

June Mountain
3819 Highway 158, June Lake
888-586-3686, www.junemountain.com
• What’s new: The resort returns after a one-winter hiatus with on-mountain experiences suited for all levels, especially families and entry-level skiers and snowboarders. The Mammoth Mountain MVP season pass also includes free access to the slopes at June.
• Social connections: @JuneMountain, www.facebook.com/JuneMountain

Mammoth Mountain
10001 Minaret Road, Mammoth Lakes
800-626-6684, www.mammothmountain.com
• What’s new: The 60th anniversary season brings with it many improvements, including a $700,000 renovation of the Mammoth Mountain Inn and the debut of the Underground Lounge nightclub with space for live music. Kids are sure to enjoy the upgrades to the Unbound Playgrounds and Adventure Zones, part of which will have a Sesame Street West theme. Top skiers and snowboarders will come to town for pre-Olympic training at Mammoth before heading off to Sochi for the Winter Games. The Sprint U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix, Jan 18-19, will conclude with the announcement of the 2014 Olympic Snowboarding Team for halfpipe and the new Olympic event of slopestyle.
• Social connections: @MammothMountain  www.facebook.com/MammothMountain,
www.youtube.com/user/MammothMTNOfficial

Bear Mountain, Snow Summit have Wednesday circled on the calendar

Bear Mountain has announced it will open for the 2013-14 winter season on Wednesday and Snow Summit likely will do the same.

At Bear, Chair 9 was expected to be running top to bottom accessing the following trails: Upper Park Run, Expressway, The Gulch and Lower Park Run. The runs off Chair 9 are intermediate to advanced, and there will be no beginner trails available on opening day, according to the resort.

Early season pricing – which includes $40 for an all-day adult ticket and $16 per child – will be in effect.

At Snow Summit, there’s a “90 percent” chance the resort will be open for skiing and snowboarding starting on Wednesday, according to a post yesterday afternoon on its website.

If Summit does open, Chair 1 will service the top of the mountain and provide access to intermediate level runs while Chair 8 will service the beginner area.

“Plan on arriving early as ticket sales may be limited due to limited terrain,” said the resort’s website.

Information: www.bearmountain.com and www.snowsummit.com

LUNCHTIME UPDATE: Snow Summit will not be opening on Wednesday after all. “Unfortunately, last night’s low temperature was not as low as we hoped. Warmer temps plus high humidity pushed back our opening day,” said a post this morning on the resort’s website. … Bear Mountain remains on track to open Wednesday at 8:30 a.m.

Bear Mountain, Snow Summit looking for a few good men and women

Big Bear Mountain Resorts is seeking applicants to join the team at Snow Summit and Bear Mountain. These are jobs with perks, including free skiing and snowboarding, discounted rental equipment and food and beverages, and skiing and snowboarding lessons for employees and their immediate eligible families, including grandchildren.

Both resorts will be hosting a job fair on Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Bear Mountain, 43101 Goldmine Drive, Big Bear Lake.

“We offer unique job experiences that you won’t find anywhere else,” said Chris Riddle, vice president of marketing for Big Bear Mountain Resorts.

A 40-year employee of Big Bear Mountain Resorts, Riddle understands what it takes to be successful in the industry. “We strive to give our guests the best experience possible, with an emphasis on great customer service. That wouldn’t be possible without an amazing team of employees who share our passion for the mountains, and for skiing and snowboarding.”

Bear Mountain and Snow Summit are seeking friendly, out-going, and customer-service focused individuals, 18 years and older. Applicants may be 16 or 17 years of age if applying for a ski school assistant position. Applicants are asked to arrive early and bring resumes,photo identification, and proof of legal right-to-work. Positions are available in both indoor and outdoor areas including ski and snowboard instructors, snowmakers, groomers, parking, lift operators, food servers, bartenders, dishwashers, cooks, guest services, and many more.

For more information, call Employee Services at 909-866-5766, Ext. 141; email jobs@bigbearmountainresorts.com or visit www.bigbearmountainresorts.com.

Hot Dawgz & Hand Rails, with plenty of mustard, returns to Bear Mountain

Hot Dawgz & Hand Rails will bring 40 of the country's top snowboarders to Bear Mountain, where they'll have the opportunity for some flight time. (Bear Mountain photo)

Professional snowboarders have already booked their flights during Bear Mountain’s 10th annual Hot Dawgz & Hand Rails event in September. (Bear Mountain photo)

No fresh powder? No problem as Hot Dawgz & Hand Rails brings 40 top professional snowboarders to Bear Mountain for the event’s 10th anniversary on Sept. 21.

The winter kickoff party features 130 tons of ice chipped into man-made snow and creative, new urban-style steel features that will be available for everyone to ride this winter in the Red Bull Plaza at Bear Mountain.

Gates open at 9 a.m. and the competition — which may be viewed viewed from Bear Mountain’s 13,000-square-foot deck and Beach Bar — begins at 2 p.m. Admission is free.

DJs will be playing music, and guests can participate in fun games and claim prizes from Red Bull, GoPro, Electric, SkullCandy, ThirtyTwo and other snowboard brands.

“The 10th anniversary is going to be bigger and better than ever,” says Zak Hale, professional snowboarder and pro team rider for Bear Mountain. “Bear Mountain is the perfect place to get people excited about the upcoming winter season while showing off this year’s up-and-coming professional snowboarders.”

Judges will include professional team riders Joe Sexton, Chris Bradshaw and Scott Stevens, and guest snowboard legend Dave Downing.

The event also will be an opportunity to purchase 2013-14 winter season passes for Bear Mountain and Snow Summit.

Information: www.bearmountain.com

Bear Mountain, Snow Summit are getting ready to call it a season

Earlier today, skiers were getting in a few last runs for the season at Snow Summit. (Big Bear Mountain Resorts photo)

On Sunday, Bear Mountain and Snow Summit will be marking the end of the 2012-13 ski and snowboard season at the two resorts.

After receiving only 75 to 90 inches of natural snowfall this season, extensive snowmaking systems at each property allowed the slopes to remain open a week into April.

“Even in a season like this, where natural snowfall was well below average, we were able to make great snow and host big events right up to the end,” said Chris Riddle, vice president of marketing. “Being the only Southern California ski and snowboard resort open this late in the season, we have truly shown dominance in our snowmaking capabilities.”

Mountain High also boasts about its extensive snowmaking system, and the winter sports season at the Wrightwood resort just recently wrapped up. Mountain High closed March 31 after the annual Spring-A-Ma-Jig celebration.

For Bear Mountain and Snow Summit, being situated next to Big Bear Lake has its benefits. The lake acts as a reservoir for snowmaking, providing a nearly inexhaustible supply of water during the winter months. Regardless of natural snowfall, Bear Mountain and Snow Summit can cover nearly 100 percent of their slopes with manmade snow.

“A big ‘thank you’ goes out to all guests who came out this season to enjoy our new additions, and made this a fun season for everyone,” Riddle said.

It was a season that included a milestone, as Snow Summit celebrated its 60th anniversary.

“We look forward to many more decades of hosting happy skiers and snowboarders,” Riddle said.

Already, officials at Bear and Snow Summit are looking forward to next winter, selling passes that they say will offer skiers and snowboarders the biggest savings for the 2013-14 season. But the passes must be purchased by May 31. Click here for information.

Bear Mountain, Snow Summit filling Easter baskets with ‘snow’ much fun

At Bear Mountain, peeps are playing board games for Easter weekend. (Bear Mountain photo)

Bear Mountain and Snow Summit have lots planned for Easter weekend and into next week, as spring break festivities continue at both resorts. Here’s a sampling:

Bear Mountain
Saturday
Neff Beach Bash; highlights from last year’s events may be found here.

Sunday
Social Media Easter Egg Hunt

Monday through Friday
Snowboarder Magazine’s “The Launch”

Wednesday and Thursday
Uniform Days (discounts for law enforcement, EMS, firefighters and active military)

Saturday, April 6
Ashbury Demo

Information: www.bearmountain.com

Snow Summit
Saturday
60 Grit Blues Band at Slopeside Pub, 1-5 p.m.
D-Team Race

Sunday
Social Media Easter Egg Hunt

Wednesday-Thursday
Uniform Days

Information: www.snowsummit.com

#freshpow day on the slopes at Bear, Snow Summit and Mountain High

Snow Summit is a winter wonderland in March, thanks to productive cold-weather systems that went through Southern California on Thursday and this morning. This photo has attracted a lot of reaction since it was posted on Facebook earlier today. (Snow Summit photo)

By Jerry Rice

Fresh powder days in March are rare in Southern California – especially ones with storms that leave behind more than a foot of snow – so it may not be surprising that social media is burning up today with the latest reports from Bear Mountain, Snow Summit and Mountain High.

The photo of snow-covered tables and chairs at Snow Summit (above) has received more than 950 “likes” and 139 “shares” since it was posted this morning. Because a photo really is worth a thousand words, many of the comments have been appropriately brief: “Wonderland!” (from Freddie Merz), “Yes!!!” (Kelsey Elizabeth Stern) and “Wooooo Hoooooo” (Snuggle Bear Cabin).

Others said they were on their way up the hill (presumably after they called the boss to say they suddenly came down with some “ailment”), or that they would be there during the weekend.

With 12-14 inches of new snow at Bear Mountain, it appears to be time for some fresh-powder runs at the resort. (Bear Mountain photo)

Snow Summit reported 12 to 14 inches of fresh powder in the last couple days – about the same amount that fell at the resort’s corporate sibling, Bear Mountain, where the photo on the right was taken. Since being posted on Facebook today at about 10 a.m., the shot has received nearly 400 “likes” and 25 “shares.”

Snow Summit is 100 percent open, and only Bow, Deer and Goldmine canyons are closed at Bear, according to information on their websites. Also, skiers and snowboarders should note that Snow Summit will be holding its final night session of the 2012-13 season on Saturday.

With fresh powder at Mountain High, the snow depth on the slopes is 12-24 inches. (Mountain High photo)

At Mountain High in Wrightwood, they’re also excited about the conditions after receiving 6 to 8 inches of new snow. “We love fresh pow,” said the Facebook entry that was posted with the action shot on the left. “Share this photo if you love new snow as much as we do!”

The last time we checked, 61 of the resort’s Facebook fans followed through on that request.

Bear Mountain, Snow Summit have plans for the weekend

Here’s what’s on tap during the next few days at two Big Bear Lake mountain resorts:

Bear Mountain

  • Today and Thursday — Uniform Days (Law enforcement, EMS, firefighters and active military may purchase an area use ticket for $38.) Click here for more information.
  • Friday — KROQ-FM on the Bear Stage
  • Saturday — Power 106 Snow In with Kid Ink and T-Mills
  • Sunday — USASA Slopestyle (registration 8-9:30 a.m.); and DJ Jason Newman on the Bear Stage, noon to 4 p.m.

Information: www.bearmountain.com

Snow Summit

  • Today and Thursday — Uniform Days
  • Saturday — KIIS-FM on the Slopeside Stage, 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Jimmy Blaze Band at the Bullwheel Bar, 3:30-7 p.m.
  • Sunday — Goldsmith Race No. 3

Information: www.snowsummit.com

Double the fun for half the price on the slopes at Bear Mountain, Snow Summit

Bear Mountain and Snow Summit have a midweek two-for-one lift ticket deal for Valentine’s Day. (Big Bear Mountain Resorts photo)

Bear Mountain and Snow Summit have a special lift-ticket deal for February, just in time for Valentine’s Day. Buy one ticket and the second one is free when they are purchased online.

“Last year, we had a couple get married on the top of Snow Summit,” says Chris Riddle, vice president of marketing for Big Bear Mountain Resorts. “We were thrilled to add a uniqueness factor to their big day. The Sweetheart Deal gives people the incentive to grab a partner for an out-of-the-ordinary date, with midweek skiing on our great snow conditions at half the price.”

The Sweetheart Deal lift ticket deal is available online only. Lift tickets are valid for use Feb. 12-14. The special is available for Adult and Young Adult tickets, and valued up to $118. Same day purchase is not available.

If the tickets are not used Feb. 12-14, they may be used on another day after paying the difference between the original purchase price and the prevailing rate on the new date that they are being used.

Kids ski/ride free all season long at Snow Summit and Bear Mountain

Big Bear Lake resorts are offering kids a chance to ski or ride for free.

At Snow Summit and Bear Mountain, the Kids Ski/Ride for Free promotion is good weekdays all season long, including spring break. This special offer requires an overnight stay, Sunday through Thursday, at the time of booking.

“Spring break just got more exciting in Big Bear because we now offer free lift tickets for kids,” said Rebecca Hrabia, Big Bear Lake Resort Association director of operations. “Parents will save money, and the kids will have an absolute blast. It’s the perfect solution where everyone in the family wins.”

The Kids Ski/Ride for Free package must include lodging at one of Big Bear’s participating lodges. One free kid’s lift ticket voucher will be given for each paying adult lift ticket.

Free tickets are valid for kids 12 years and younger. Lift tickets are good for either or both Snow Summit and Bear Mountain.

Packages are good for lodging arrivals Sunday through Thursday and skiing or snowboarding Monday through Friday. Midweek skiing generally has no wait time at the chair lifts, and the runs are wide open. Lift ticket vouchers are not valid on weekends and during the holiday period Feb. 16–22.

Families also qualify to participate in Big Bear’s new Kids. Get Outdoors. Win. program that gives kids an opportunity to collect stamps in an adventure stamp passport. Kids who collect three stamps or more will qualify to win a grand prize trip for four to Big Bear.

Other prizes include a new bike, new snowboard, zipline tickets or a season pass to Bear Mountain and Snow Summit. Families are encouraged to go to guest services at either Snow Summit or Bear Mountain to receive a stamp for the passport.

For more details about the Kids Ski/Ride for Free package and Kids. Get Outdoors. Win. program, including a list of Outdoor Fun Spots locations, prize listings and official rules visit www.bigbear.com or call 800-424-4232.