Here's a very similar story about Mammoth Mtn and its great founder Dave McCoy. The last members of "greatest generation" of ski area builders are fading from the scene. We won't see the likes of them again.
In case the link doesn't work here's the whole LA Times article, minus photos.
March 27, 2005
Mammoth's Real McCoy Is Leaving the Mountain
As the resort's founder searches for a buyer, unease about the future settles over town.
By Louis Sahagun, Times Staff Writer
MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. - Up in the Sierra Nevada, Dave McCoy is revered as the man who, with grit and stubbornness and lots of hard work, turned a remote mountain into a top-notch ski resort.
But since announcing a few weeks ago that he plans to sell his Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, the elder statesman of the California ski industry finds himself facing some awkward questions from the usually adoring fans who crowd his path wherever he goes.
Ten children in helmets and black parkas took one look at the 89-year-old gentleman standing on a veranda overlooking the slopes on a recent Saturday and rushed up to thank him for the chance to be on his junior ski team, the Mighty Mites.
McCoy's smile faded, however, when 8-year-old Patty Anne Hensley stepped out of the pack and fiercely asked, "Why are you selling the mountain?"
Caught off guard, McCoy muttered, "Well, uh, we're trying to see how marketable it is."
The spunky third-grader with blue eyes and long hair flowing from beneath her helmet shot back another question. "If you sell it, will we still have things like the ski team?"
"Well, gee, yes, I think so."
It's that uncertainty - the fear that "Dave's Mountain" will never be the same - that churns up mixed feelings here. Take Stacey Bardfield, one of the region's top real estate brokers and a close friend of McCoy's for two decades.
"I have the most to gain because property values are going to go way up if he sells to, say, a Vail Resorts," Bardfield said. "But it's sad because this is Dave's empire.
"The good news," she added, "is that Dave is going out with a bang, and healthy as a bull."
The story of McCoy and the mountain began in 1937, when he ignored naysayers and created the first rope tow in the Mammoth area - a rope lashed to the axle of a Model A Ford.
He charged skiers 50 cents for the privilege of being pulled up the slopes.
Over the next 68 years, this affable, compact Paul Bunyan cleared land, groomed slopes, laid concrete, maneuvered cranes and even forged his own tools to transform Mammoth Mountain into a ski resort for Southern Californians and a community for his employees.
McCoy, who never kept a planner on his desk, launched the town's first water district, fire department, high school and college, and he often dispatched his crews to fix a resident's plumbing problem or to patch a leaky roof. Untold numbers of people have received financial help, even property, from McCoy over the years.
Then there are the legions of hard-core ski competitors, young racers and weekend warriors whom McCoy has coached, placing some on U.S. Olympic teams.
"The idea of Dave not being here is just devastating," said local historian Robin Morning, who is completing a biography of McCoy titled "Tracks of Passion."
"We're facing the loss of the region's heartbeat," she said. "Can we live without it? Will the new owners become part of the community like he did?"
Until now, McCoy has avoided comment on the sale. But in an interview, he acknowledged that he and townspeople share the same worry: Will the new owner be up to sustaining his legacy?
He also said he can't afford to wait much longer to find out.
"I'll kick the bucket someday, so I have to have some plans in place," said the father of six, grandfather of 17 and great grandfather of 15.
"I want a strong town, and I want the mountain to be more successful than it is today," he said. "So I want whoever gets it to commit to the community in a big way. And they'll have to do more than promise to do that. They'll have to demonstrate it."
McCoy and company officials say they have received more than 30 "credible" offers.
Investment banking firm Houlihan Lokey Howard & Zukin was hired to sell McCoy's controlling interest in the resort. Analysts have estimated that McCoy's stake could fetch more than $200 million.
The company is co-owned by Intrawest, a giant Canadian resort developer that teamed up with McCoy in the mid-1990s, and the ski area's chief executive, Rusty Gregory.
Under terms of their working agreement, Intrawest has first dibs on McCoy's stake. A spokesman for the ski area said, however, that Intrawest executives could join McCoy in selling their interests in Mammoth's operations.
A deal could be completed around the time of McCoy's 90th birthday in mid-August, company officials said.
In the meantime, the chatter in town suggests that there is a quiet fear for the future of the 4-square-mile community already coping with stratospheric home prices, fickle weather, traffic congestion and a 1970s strip mall ambience that some visitors find charming but others chide as chintzy.
It's hard to find anyone in this town of 7,700 who begrudges McCoy's desire to sell. The resort is debt-free and enjoying record snowpack and sales. It's just that the new owner will shape the lives of the people who reside here, for better or worse, forever.
"The mountain is half business, half icon," said Mammoth Lakes attorney Paul Rudder. "It's an overarching organization and the main reason we're all here. When the mountain gets a cold, we get the flu."
McCoy was born in 1915 in El Segundo, the son of a nomadic road construction worker with a knack for mechanical work.
Shortly after graduating from high school, he moved to Independence, Calif., an Eastern Sierra hamlet where they still talk about his speeding along Highway 395 on a brown-and-yellow Harley-Davidson and using skis he carved from ash wood.
McCoy was working as a soda jerk in Independence when he first laid eyes on his future wife, Roma Carriere.
"She was in a group of cheerleaders, and they'd stopped in to get sodas," he recalled. "I knew right then and there, she was the right gal for me. They don't make them like her anymore."
By the late 1930s, McCoy was working as a snow surveyor for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and he knew that skiing didn't come any better than on the stormy extinct volcano with steep chutes on all sides.
With the help of some like-minded buddies, McCoy worked through blizzards, droughts and economic downturns, building increasingly sophisticated machinery to pull skiers up the mountain and to groom the snow that fell early and deep.
"I always felt that life is so short, why not do the best you can?" he said. "Every part of our business had to be a little better every day."
In photographs taken of him around this time, whether he was schussing down the mountain or posing for snapshots with a winning ski team, McCoy often had a smudge of axle grease somewhere on his usual attire - T-shirt and jeans.
Dave and Roma married in 1941 and soon started a mom-and-pop ski business by using one of his motorcycles as collateral to buy a used portable rope tow. McCoy then secured a year-to-year permit from the U.S. Forest Service to run a portable tow anywhere in the Eastern Sierra between Bishop and Bridgeport.
The McCoys stashed the fees in a fishing creel. He also began leasing land from the U.S. Forest Service on which to expand his operations.
In 1942, McCoy was racing downhill in a state championship when he crashed, shattering the bones of his left leg. Doctors wanted to amputate, but McCoy wouldn't listen, just as he rebuffed those who said he could never make a ski resort work.
When the doctors went to his mother for consent, she advised, "If Dave says he's keeping the leg, then he's keeping his leg."
It was only one of many serious spills on the slopes and on his motorcycles and mountain bikes. (Just two years ago, at age 87, McCoy lost control of his motorcycle and spent a month in the hospital.)
After World War II, Southern California saw an explosion of interest in skiing, and McCoy met the demand by concocting a diesel-powered tow that could move 1,800 skiers an hour.
Still, no one but McCoy envisioned Mammoth Mountain as a major resort.
"People told me it snowed so much nobody would want to come," he recalled. "It was too stormy, too high and too far away."
In retrospect, he added, "all the things they said would work against us" made it what it is today: 4,000 acres of ski areas at Mammoth and June mountains, 185 ski trails served by 35 lifts, a lodge and more than a dozen stores and dining venues.
The area, which still operates on leased U.S. Forest Service land, gets 1.4 million skier-visits a year, and its nagging image as an affordable "Sears, Roebuck" resort of cheap rooms and hot dog lunches is changing fast.
A new hub of shops, restaurants, art galleries and taverns, called the Village at Mammoth, includes a gondola to shuttle people up and down the mountain.
Mammoth Lakes has a general aviation airport but no regular passenger carrier. City officials are working with the Federal Aviation Administration in the hopes of getting commercial flights approved; that could greatly enhance customer traffic at the resort.
The sale won't affect Intrawest's plans to open a 230-room, $140-million Westin hotel in Mammoth Lakes next year, company officials said. Home prices, meanwhile, continue to climb, and local real estate agents say the average home price has hit $1 million.
A new owner for the resort, McCoy and his staffers say, could further the general economic momentum.
Ski area Chief Executive Gregory, who began working for McCoy as a ski lift operator 28 years ago, delivered that message recently to the Inyo County Board of Supervisors. In true McCoy fashion, Gregory appeared in a T-shirt, jeans and black leather jacket.
"This is the right time to contemplate the future. The company is as strong as it's ever been," Gregory told the panel. "We're looking for an individual, or group, who will recognize the value of what Dave has done."
With such high stakes, Gregory is keeping identities of potential buyers close to the vest.
As negotiations heat up in the ski area's redwood-paneled headquarters, Dave and Roma McCoy make time each day to explore the mountain and its environs with an all-terrain vehicle known as a Rhino.
"We dress up warm and pack the Rhino with lunches and cameras, then we fire it up," McCoy said. "We travel side by side, and every time we go out we find something different.
"It might be a beautiful flower, or the sky might be extremely beautiful against a sunset," he said. "In this way, we're learning to be together, and a little better, every day."