Ronnie Coleman, 79, a Twin Falls native known in Sun Valley as Rocky K-2, passed away March 13 at Mountain View (Calif.) Health Care Center after a short illness.
Old timers remember Rocky K-2 as Sun Valley’s un-official rabbit foot—a good luck charm for suitable snow and skiing.
Coleman appeared as the cover subject on the first 28-page issue of the Idaho Mountain Express Nov. 27, 1974. He was seated on the chairlift 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 chairlift ready for a full day of skiing with rations, including a box of Corn Flakes.
The next year, 1976, the Express 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. For the next 19 years, the Express, fearful of offending the Snow Gods, made it a point to track down Rocky K-2 at the beginning of the ski seasons and portray him on the cover.
The superstition worked out well. He thoroughly loved skiing and enjoyed his vital role. And it seemed Sun Valley always had good early skiing.
Coleman moved to Sun Valley in 1960 and worked in the resort mailroom under the Union Pacific and Janss regimes. “We were paid $5.50 a day, given $1 a day for a cot, got three free meals, and a free ski pass. The UP days were good,” Coleman once said. He came from a breed of skiers who came here to ski and lived cheaply while doing so.
He had “many names” at Sun Valley, his older sister Janet Bell said. Ronnie was known as Rocky Rossignol for his love of French racing skis. Bobby Burns talked him into switching his ski allegiances to K-2, and Ronnie became the basis for the “Rocky K-2” cartoon strip that appeared in Ski Racing magazine starting in 1970. He boasted he was the best thing to happen to K-2 skis before the Mahre brothers came along.
Rocky claimed his biggest thrill was beating Austri-an downhill star Franz Klammer when the World Cup was staged in Sun Valley in 1977. Actually, Klammer fell and did not finish. Afterward, Rocky skied down the same course in his methodical fashion and always claimed he had beaten Klammer because he finished.
By the early 1990s, Rocky K-2 fell upon hard times and became ill. Janet Bell moved to Hailey to take care of him for six years. They moved together to the Bay Area of California in 1995. Coleman lived in a senior facility in Santa Clara and was enthusiastic about the artwork he created, while following Bay Area sports teams closely.
Survivors include sister Janet Bell, 92, of Mountain View, a 1940 graduate of Twin Falls High; a niece, Sharon Huggins of Arizona; and two great nieces. Coleman was preceded in death by parents, Royal Lou Coleman Sr. and Ethel Coleman, and his brother Royal Lou Coleman Jr.
A memorial service will be held April 4 at 10 a.m. at the Sunnyvale (Calif.) Presbyterian Church. He will be buried with his parents at Sunset Memorial Park in Twin Falls.