The venerable Dave McCoy turns 97 on Friday, Aug. 24. I made a pilgrimage down to his home in Bishop to wish him a happy birthday earlier this week.
He’s still way smarter than I am.
In his usual, cryptic way, he deflected every question back with the deftness of a Roger Federer. And when I asked him to explain something, he laughed. “That’s something I never do,” said Dave. “I don’t want to be misinterpreted.” Personally, I sort of like the confusion. Dave always challenges you to come up with your own answers.
I asked him if and when during his life and career did he ever start feeling like a businessman.
“There was never a point where I thought I was a businessman … everybody in Los Angeles owned Mammoth.”
He did point out, however, that when he started, there were 52 other rope tow businesses in Inyo and Mono counties, so he’s got to know a few things about business – or at least about perseverance.
Before he made me put away my pen – talking on the record does have a way of stunting a conversation – he did make this general observation about the modern ski industry. “Everything I did was for Mammoth Mountain. I separated myself from the Town. That’s what’s wrong with the ski industry. The company wants everything on the town and the mountain.”
As for advice in managing people, Dave said give ‘em space and let them do their jobs. “Don’t tell ‘em all that stuff about the numbers. Just ask, ‘How can I help you [be better]?’”
Finally, as I was readying to leave, I threw out a casual question: Can you blow out 97 candles?
Dave immediately peppered me with questions. How big are they? How close together? Can I blow more than once?
If you’d like to say hello to Dave, he’ll be up at Mammoth Mountain on Sept. 8 for the dedication of a plaque in his honor by the local chapter of e clampus vitus.
Sheet: So what is this event about?
Dave: They’re making a plaque and saying something good about me.