Wally Rothgeb Sr., 89, passed away peacefully at his home in Ketchum on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012.
Born July 26, 1922, in Wenatchee, Wash., the only child of Clyde and Wanda Rothgeb, Wally learned to ski at age 6 on the slopes of Stevens Pass and was hooked for life.
He was active in many sports but skiing was his first and lifelong love. While skiing at Stevens Pass on Dec. 7, 1941, Wally took a lunch break, turned on the car radio and learned of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
He threw his skis in the car and enlisted that afternoon, serving in the Army Air Corps in the South Pacific until October 1945. While home on a 30-day furlough, Wally married his high school sweetheart, Betty Hobson.
In 1955, while vacationing at Lake Tahoe, Wally learned that a ski area was about to be built on Monument Peak above the lake. With no guarantee of a job, Wally packed up his young family and moved to Tahoe.
Strong and knowledgeable, a "four-event" ski champion, he was the right man for Heavenly Valley. Wally helped construct the first chairlift, headed the ski patrol, coached the Far West Ski Association Junior National Team and ultimately became mountain and general manager of the resort.
He and Betty managed Heavenly Valley for the decade of the 1960s. He also instilled a love of skiing and the outdoors in his children.
After the move to Lake Tahoe, Wally restarted his competitive skiing career that had been sidetracked by the war and his growing family. He was the National Veterans Champion in downhill and slalom combined in 1957 and 1959.
In 1971, it was off to Big Sky, Mont., to build and open a ski area for Chet Huntley. Leaving Big Sky up and running successfully in 1974, it was back to Tahoe and retirement.
As their children scattered, Wally and Betty divided their time among Tahoe, Ketchum and Phoenix.
Wally is survived by his four children, Wally Jr., Barb (Barlow) and Nance, all of Ketchum, and Susan (Clendenin) of Lake Tahoe; and four grandchildren, Chris, Meggi, Taylor and Katie.
Wally's love of skiing continued throughout his life. A member of the 80+ Ski Club, he skied many seasons at Heavenly Valley and then Sun Valley. His last runs were made on Dollar Mountain at age 86 with an oxygen tank in his backpack.
At Wally's request, no services will be held.
Donations in memory of Wally may be made to the Senior Connection of Blaine County, Box 28, Hailey, ID 83333. The Senior Connection's staff, amazing volunteers and all his fellow seniors were a source of much happiness for Wally in his final years.
Arrangements are under the care of Wood River Chapel of Hailey, Idaho. Friends and family are invited to leave a condolence or light a candle at www.woodriverchapel.com.