Last of the Ski Bums

Passing Date: 
Sunday, January 19, 2014

The author (left) with Ron Funk, 2012

Ronald Maurice Funk, 1934-2013

By Dick Dorworth

Ron Funk lived with a fierce, incandescent spirit that touched everyone who knew him, with

an insistence on his own terms that friends adapted to. Ron, as they say, did his own thing.

In 1952, at 19, he left a broken home in Portland, Ore. and moved to Sun Valley to create an

unconventional life following his passions. He left behind divorced parents with whom he

never made complete peace; a grandmother he loved deeply, who raised, supported and

encouraged him in all his pursuits; and Mt. Hood, where he learned the skiing that defined

much of his life.

He pursued alpine ski racing with courage and determination, and in 1955 earned an

alternate spot on the 1956 Olympic team. That summer, he went to Portillo, Chile to train

and be ready in case an opening appeared.

Along with Bud Werner, Ralph Miller and Marvin Melville, as an unconventional adjunct

to training, Ron attempted to break the world speed skiing record. He fell at 96 mph and

suffered a seriously broken leg. For several years Ron was notorious for the fastest fall in

skiing history, a reputation he did not enjoy because it implied a recklessness he did not

embrace. After rehabilitation he returned to a racing career. Between frequent injuries,

he became the first American to win the longest downhill race in Europe, Switzerland’s

prestigious Parsenn Derby (198), and was one of only 19 men and six women to earn Sun

Valley’s Diamond Sun pin (1963).

Ron is best remembered by the skiing public for his films. He skied for Warren Miller, and

in 1969 starred in Dick Barrymore’s “The Last of the Ski Bums,” a role which garnered a

review in the New York Times. Barrymore’s script included the line “Ron Funk would rather

ski than just about anything, and he hates to work.”

True enough, but Ron’s lack of a work ethic was not due to laziness or lack of energy. He

had a grand, informally-trained intellect that was bored by drudgery and by selling people

things they don’t really need. He held many jobs: ski instructor, coach, ski school director,

bartender, hod carrier, crafts fair art dealer, tile setter, laborer, bus driver and EST trainer.

He was passionate about every effort -- until the next endeavor. He lived in Sun Valley, Bear

Valley, Aspen, Donner Summit, Fresno, Battle Mountain, South Shore Tahoe, Seattle, Chile,

the Philippines and, in the end, Thailand.

By 1992, the lifetime of injuries forced Ron to quit skiing. After his final run, on Sun Valley’s

Baldy, he announced that it was just too painful. He spent most of his remaining life in

warmer climes, riding his bicycle some 50 miles a day.

Next to skiing, Ron’s greatest love was for women. He pursued them with a libidinous spirit,

intelligence and humor that many (including some reading this) found irresistible. He was

also tenacious. He was twice married, and somewhere in the world is a daughter he never


Ron lived on his own terms and he died on his own terms, as he had told his close friends he

would do when the pain became heavier than the joy of life. When he heard of Ron’s death,

C.B. Vaughan spoke for many when he wrote: “Funk, what can we all say? We loved you,

your spirit, who you were and the impact you made on all of us. You have touched so many

of us and we all have fond memories of an individual bigger than life. Ron will live on with

all of us as his zest for life was contagious!! Until we all meet again, Ron, we love your spirit,

your persona and you!”

A lady friend wrote: “My gosh. He will always be in my heart. What memories. What laughs!”

Ron was my friend, brother, mentor and comrade in the adventure(s) of life for nearly 60

years. His influence on my life is incalculable. I’m glad and grateful he was here and sorry

and sad he is gone, but his spirit lives in everyone who knew him. 

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