Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy birthday, Rocky K-2! Now, let it snow!

Sun Valley’s rabbit foot says hi

Express Staff Writer

Ronald Coleman, better known locally as Rocky K-2, celebrates his 70th birthday in 2004 by displaying some of his artwork. Rocky will be 77 on Thursday, living happily in California. Express file photo

Sun Valley Resort is officially 75 today, pretty much in lockstep with Rocky K-2, who becomes 77 Thursday, Dec. 22.

And who, the new generation of Sun Valley skiers might ask, is Rocky K-2?

That's a good question, particularly this year when the valley's snow levels are low. Old timers remember Rocky K-2 as Sun Valley's unofficial rabbit foot—a good luck charm for suitable snow and skiing.

Rocky K-2, whose real name is Ronald Coleman, appeared as the cover subject on the very first 28-page issue of the Idaho Mountain Express Nov. 27, 1974. He was seated on the chair lift at the bottom of Warm Springs, ski tips on full alert and eager to head up the hill.

The next year, 1975, Sun Valley had its earliest opening ever—Nov. 22—and Rocky K-2 was pictured again on the Express cover. He was sitting on the chair lift ready for a full day of skiing with rations including a box of Corn Flakes.

But the next year, 1976, the Express somehow forgot to snap Rocky's photo as a way to kick off the ski season. And the ski season never really arrived. It was Sun Valley's infamous drought year of scarce snow.

Learning our lesson and afraid of offending the Snow Gods again, the Express made it a point for the next 19 years to track down Rocky K-2 at the beginning of the ski seasons and portray him on the cover.

The superstition worked out well. Rocky was pictured skiing powder, riding the lift, giving the thumbs-up sign or wearing Santa Claus clothes. He thoroughly enjoyed his vital role. And it seemed Sun Valley always had good early skiing.

Rocky K-2, born in Twin Falls, moved to Sun Valley in 1960 and worked in the resort mailroom under the Union Pacific and Janss regimes. Nothing came easily to Ronald Coleman, but he was one of the last of a whole breed of skiers who came here to ski and live cheaply while he did it.

By the early 1990s, Rocky K-2 fell upon hard times and became ill. His older sister Janet Bell moved to Hailey to take care of him for six years. They moved together to the Bay Area of California in 1995. There, Rocky K-2 now lives in a senior facility in Santa Clara. His dear sister visits him frequently and communicates with him daily.

Janet Bell. 90, a 1940 graduate of Twin Falls High School, called the Express last week to remind us of Rocky K-2's 77th birthday on Dec. 22. "He's slowing down, but his health is pretty good. But he misses the mountains and misses you all terribly," said Bell, who lives nearby in Mountain View, Ca.

She added, "He's still active, does a lot of walking and a lot of his artwork—drawing and abstract painting five days a week at an arts-and-crafts workshop here. Of course Ronnie is a huge San Francisco Giants and 49ers fan and even follows the San Jose Sharks. He's a real jewel. Life is good."

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