Local Profile: Dan McConnell’s Morning Report is Legendary

Dan McConnell says he’s not a weatherman but his Morning Report is the most popular weather forecast in Mammoth Lakes. Learn more about his rise to local celebrity status and get some tips on his favorite places to eat, ski and explore. 

It was 40 degrees below zero in Minnesota on the day Dan McConnell decided to leave his home state. He did not have much money and was not really sure where he was going other than California. When he got to Rock Springs, Wyoming his car broke down and it was still 40 below. 

“I knew I had had not gone far enough yet,” McConnell says. He bought a new used car and kept driving until he reached Santa Rosa, California where he had a few girlfriends. 

It was 1979 and he’d never heard of Mammoth, but a friend was working lift crew on the mountain and McConnell liked to ski, so he thought he’d check it out after only a few months in Santa Rosa.

“I had heard about Yosemite and I looked at a map and thought, cool I can go through Yosemite to get to Mammoth,” McConnell said.  “But the road was closed so I had to backtrack and go around. It took me 12 hours to get here.”

McConnell, who won’t reveal his age, is recognized around town by his indulgent smile and endless well of stoke. His almost-daily morning report, which he started to post on Facebook a few years ago when the cable was down, has made him somewhat of a local celebrity. Strangers recognize his voice in the gondola even if half of his face is covered in goggles. 

Viewers never know what to expect, which is part of what makes the morning report so popular. To prepare for the three or four minute segment, he reads the Reno and Hanford National Weather Service discussions and checks the Mammoth Mountain Ski Patrol website. Then he heads to a location with a beautiful natural backdrop, and starts filming mostly unscripted.  

He makes a wisecrack to start, introduces himself, says the time of the sunset and sunrise, and then he goes into the temperature and wind speeds at various locations around the region. There’s always some local trivia, an announcement on events, and daily birthday mentions. 

“If I make one funny remark per day it seems to work,” he says. “I just do silly things.”

He bought a five-dollar sport coat and wears it once in while. Some days he enters the screen from the bottom. During a dry period he drew a sad face on a shovel, but a few weeks later when it snowed, he turned the shovel upside down to make a happy face. 

The report usually has some highlights from the day before: ski footage from the mountain, or wild horses he filmed near Benton. Dan’s friend Judy used to say every day was “the best day ever,” and he thought that was funny so he made the phrase his closing remark: “May today be the best day ever, see you on the slopes!”

He didn’t know she got the phrase from Sponge Bob Square Pants, and laughs at the irony. “I used to make fun of her and now I use it for the report,” he says.

While McConnell’s morning report has quickly become a local go-to for the weather report he does not consider of himself as news guy or a weatherman. He’s more of a “video journalist or documentarian.” 

Before owning and operating the Mammoth Channel, McConnell owned the Speed of Light photo lab for twelve years, and worked for the local television channel covering the news before that. There was not a lot going on in Mammoth back then, so he covered high school sports, supervisor meetings, and a featured skier of the week. Sometimes he would just point the camera out the window.

He also worked a number of odd jobs from restaurant work to painting condos. Sometimes as many as three jobs, but he always made time to ski. 

“In my future life I want to be a sociologist,” he says. “I am so intrigued by why people are like they are and how we evolved into these different types of personalities.” 

For now, he’ll stick to his one-man gig at the Mammoth Channel. 

After nearly forty years in Mammoth Lakes, McConnell has no intention of ever living anywhere else. He doesn’t travel that often because there are so many places like the Palisades, Kearsarge Pass, or Tuolumne to explore here in the Eastern Sierra. 

In 1979 when he finally arrived in Mammoth after that twelve-hour drive, McConnell drove straight to the ski area, saw a sign for the video department, walked in the door and got his first job. He has not left or put down his camera since. 

“I saw that video department sign and proverbial bells were ringing in my head,” he said. “I thought this place is heaven—If I can make a living here I am never leaving.”

Dan McConnell’s Favorite Local Spots

I love to ice skate. But not play hockey.  – Dan McConnell

Where to Eat: Upstairs at Roberto’s. Order the fish tacos with the mango salsa. Wednesday night is half-price signature margaritas.

Favorite Coffee Shop: I don’t really have a pattern. My favorite is probably Stellar Brew. 

Best Powder Stash: A lot of times it’s Field of Dreams on the backside, or Juevos—
Chicken Juevos. 

Favorite Ski Trail: The best long uninterrupted line is from the Monument down to St. Anton. I milk it all the way down into those little trees. It’s always interesting to watch how other people ski it. They always cut over to Scotty’s and miss the best part. 

Best Hike: If I’m busy and can get out just for a couple hours I like to hike Arrowhead to Skelton to Barney (in the Mammoth Lakes Basin).

Favorite Mountain Summit: Just because I love the name: Mount Julius Caesar near Royce and Merriam. You hike through an area called Granite Park from Pine Creek trailhead on the way to Italy Pass.

Best Spot for Music: Cerro Coso College lobby: the Felici Trio, or the Symphony. It has a great sound in there. Outdoor music? For sure the Mobil Station in Lee Vining.

Favorite Mountain Bike Ride: It’s short, but Upper Rock Creek. You park at the day use area and ride up along the creek all the way past Rock Creek Lodge. Then you cross over on the west side. There’s all these planks to cross the marshy areas. It’s fun, but challenging and hardly anybody rides it. 

Monica Prelle

Monica Prelle is an outdoors, wine, and travel writer who would rather be running, climbing, or mountain biking. See more of Monica's posts here, read more of her work at monicaprelle.com and connect on twitter @monicaprelle

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