Every time you visit Dave McCoy at his residence in Bishop, you can’t help but leave his office having had some sort of epiphany.
This is the epiphany I had after leaving his office in May, with the venerable McCoy just three months shy of his 100th birthday.
You put the right people around you, the right people with positive energy, and boy, it doesn’t take much to get you going and it doesn’t take much to keep you going.
Positive forward momentum is all about the removal of friction.
If you had to compare it to anything, Dave’s office is like … well, it’s not like Grand Central Station. It doesn’t have the high-vaulted ceiling or a feeling of spaciousness or grandeur. No, it’s more like Penn Station. Functional, relatively small, cluttered with objects and nostalgia on the walls and usually a pile of loose paperwork on his desk, but not cluttered in front of the desk. Just a few chairs off to the side – decent chairs you’d find at an office supply store. Nothing fancy.
Brandon Russell is invariably seated by Dave’s side – next to a large computer monitor screen. A longtime personal assistant of Dave’s, he is like an extension of Dave’s brain – a gigabit chip who knows where everything is located. If Dave wants to look for something (a photograph, a phone number, a website), Brandon literally has it pulled up within seconds.
In golf parlance, Brandon is the perfect caddy. He seems to know what club Dave wants to hit before Dave even asks for it.
When I enter on this May afternoon, it is just Dave and Brandon behind the desk. Now I’m not sure I’m the typical guest, just because I don’t come with an agenda. I really have no idea what will happen, or what we’ll talk about. This can be a little awkward at first.
Because while I’d love to ask Dave the BIG question and get the BIG insight, I know better. He just doesn’t lay things out that way.
Now I don’t know if Dave is a religious man, but when I think about him, the passage that comes to mind is Luke 16:10. “He who is faithful in little is faithful in much.”
Which I interpret as the little things matter, and how you handle the little things really does answer the BIG questions.
My friend Scott McGuire told me a great Dave story the other day. It was 1997, and Scott was working on the hill as a supervisor in some capacity. It was during one of those storm cycles where it just snows and snows and the Mountain was lucky to have one lift open that day – Scott can’t recall if it was Chair 20 or 21.
So Scott troops into the lodge to fill up a thermos of hot chocolate to bring to the lifties and the few hearty skiers braving the elements. He runs into Dave, who asks him what he’s doing. When Scott tells him, and Dave realizes that Scott was actually paying for the hot chocolate out of his own pocket, he says, “Hold on a second.”
Next thing Scott knows, Dave’s got his snow gear on and he’s filling a veritable barrel of hot chocolate and personally taking Scott out to the lift on his snowmobile.
This was when Dave was a spring chicken – like 82.
On one level, Dave’s time is infinitely precious – far more valuable than any consultant’s time, or lawyer’s time, or therapist’s time. That’s the elephant in the room. Even being the miracle he is, it can’t go on forever. So, you’re sitting there thinking, “I’m nothing but a waste of this guy’s time. He has done more, seen more, knows more than I’ll ever know.”
Ironically, Dave absolutely cares nothing about what he knows. He wants to know what you know, because that might be new.
A fellow walks into the office – Barry Randolph. He lives in Calimesa and has a second home in Mammoth. He’s lately had this crazy idea to restore one of the original Mountain gondola cars to its original condition, down to the exact shade of paint. He then hired Wayne Simmons, a building contractor from Calimesa, to hang the sucker in Randolph’s Mammoth home so you’ll be able to step into the gondola car from the staircase.
So Randolph walks in like he’s known Dave his whole life, and he’s got these paper bags filled with fruit that he brought from down south. He offers Dave lemons, valencia oranges, dates …
“Who is she?” cracks Dave, referring to the dates. It took me a sec to figure it out, too.
I then get the backstory. Chic Gladding, who works as the maintenance supervisor in MMSA’s garage, has been restoring the gondola car. Chic’s a classic throwback and a connection to the McCoy era. Meaning … he’s made technical innovations to improve the performance of the Snowcat fleet at the Mountain. He’s done some of the engineering on Dave’s recent pet project of building an all-electric Rhino off-road vehicle.
Now in my notes, I can’t tell whether or not I got that backstory from Tony Romo or Tony Milici, who both entered the room right around the timeRandolph showed up. They’ve both worked for the McCoys for a long time. Romo apparently was the first interviewer for the current top management team at MMSA: CEO Rusty Gregory, CFO Marc Clausen and COO Greg Dallas. I suppose that qualifies him as St. Peter of the Sierra.
A few minutes after Randolph exits, Mike Wiegele and his wife Bonnie walk in. They operate one of, if not the longest-running heliski operation in North America out of Blue River, British Columbia (Banff area).
The developmental arc of Wiegele’s business was similar to Dave’s. He started running heli trips in 1970 but it was a full decade before he and his wife started building a full resort.
With Dave, according to biographer/historian Robin Morning, it was a little more than a decade from charging for his first lift to building Chair 1 and Main Lodge.
Wiegele and McCoy were also similar because they were both backed by awesome wives and partners.
As Bonnie Wiegele told me, she owned and ran retail shops in Banff for many years. At the end of the year, her husband would raid the kitty to continue building the resort. She was, essentially, his bank and his cash flow.
By this time, I’m speaking to Bonnie and Mike Wiegele is huddled with Dave at his desk telling a story about a backcountry avalanche and mapping it out on scratch paper. Romo and Russell and Milici are all participating in their lively discussion.
“Don’t break the rules. You can’t break the rules in the mountains,” I hear Wiegele say.
And I think about that. How McCoy and Wiegele didn’t break the rules in the mountains, but broke all sorts of other rules and conventions to build the great things they built.
But really, as I sit there preparing to depart, I look at the folks who surround Dave on a daily basis and I see how their demeanors, their positivity, their energy … they feed Dave’s soul in a very touching way. Dave has given so much to so many for so long. It’s nice to see those closest to him filling his tank and bringing him joy during the incredibly lengthy and beautiful sunset of an iconic life.
Dave’s birthday is August 24.
News and notes
So Vane told me Council got out at about 10:50 p.m. on Wednesday. That’s twenty minutes past what I’ve always understood to be a drop-dead finishing time of 10:30 p.m.
Town Attorney Andrew Morris told Council at the meeting that 10:30 was a longstanding “policy decision” as opposed to an ordinance.
He also said there were people waiting to give testimony and you couldn’t cut them off and continue the meeting until a later date because the SFR initiative issue had to be decided Wednesday night.
Hmm. So why place it as the last item on the agenda? Oh, that’s right. ‘Cause you still harbor great bitterness towards all these people who robbed you of your decision-making powers.
Maybe this is why they don’t trust you. And from Vane …
MUF won’t move
The Town of Mammoth Lakes Multi-Use Facility, more commonly known as the Ice Rink, won’t be moving anytime soon after Wednesday night’s Town Council discussion.
As MUSD recently reported at its June 25 Board meeting, the Board authorized Superintendent Lois Klein to prepare an extended lease amendment proposal for the Ice Rink property to the Town of Mammoth Lakes. The deal: The lease won’t be more than $42,000/year if the roof is up by June 30, 2017.
The Board also said it has discussed selling the property versus leasing it, but the Town would have to bid competitively in such a scenario.
Public Works Director Grady Dutton recommended that the Town continue to pursue an environmental review process for a future move to Mammoth Creek Park West, regardless of Council concerns, because “only after that process will we understand the full impacts of the facility [at MCPW], if there are any.”
Dutton noted that the Town already won’t have the time or funding to build the roof on the Rink in its current location. The Town has allocated about $825,000 toward the roof, but estimates it will cost about $1 million to construct. He asserted that if Council does not pursue an environmental review, it could mean another winter goes by before the Rink gets a roof.
Mayor Pro-Tem Shields Richardson wondered whether a lawsuit filed by disgruntled MCPW neighbors could hold up the project even if the Town did go through with an environmental review.
Ultimately, Council unanimously decided not to approve moving forward with a project description, detailed scope of work, or cost estimate for the relocation, nor with initiating an environmental review process.