If there ever was a truly beloved local who exudes the Sun Valley lifestyle, it’s Nappy Neaman.
With his radiant smile, warm personality, cowboy hat and flip-flops, Nappy knows cool. He’s an eclectic, one-of-a-kind personality who is both down-to-earth and wild at heart at the same time. He traveled the world at a young age and has lived in the Wood River Valley for quite some time. He’s a ski mechanic, snowcat groomer, a mountain goat guide and the emcee at the Wagon Days Parade.
Suffice it to say Nappy has his hands in a lot.
And while he makes it look so easy to be calm, Nappy Neaman’s childhood dreams came true through hard work and determination.
Born Kevin John Michael Neaman, Nappy’s story is one of perseverance and a deep-rooted love for skiing that has stayed with him throughout his life. Despite growing up in a one-room apartment with his brother in a New Jersey ghetto in Union City, Nappy always had big dreams.
Nappy’s parents worked tirelessly to provide for their family in their small living quarters. But despite their financial hardships, Nappy’s father, Harold, a genuine East Coast blue-collar guy, always found a way to support his son’s passion for skiing.
The love of skiing was born after Nappy saw the 1964 Winter Olympics on television. When he was 12, he and his father would drive to the ski slopes every weekend, where Nappy would spend hours skiing while his father waited in the lodge.
Nappy Neaman’s journey to achievement was fateful. At just 17, Nappy was lured to Boulder, Colorado, to be the youngest ski rep in the United States when ski legend Dave Scott brought him to a little ski company called HEAD.
He spent the next 10 years traveling around the country as a demo rep, working on skis for ski racing events, and trained under the legendary Michel Arpin, who coached Jean-Claude Killy. The male
mentors who played a heavy role in his life were hard-nosed, old-school guys.
“I worked for some of the toughest guys in the ski business,” Nappy says. Dave Scott, Michel Arpin, Hank Talbert of HEAD Skis, Bob Beattie and eventually Denzel Rowland at Sun Valley Resort; these pioneers shaped and molded Nappy.
“[Dave Scott] is the one who took me out of the ghetto; that day changed my life. He’s my mentor,” Nappy adds. “Bob Beattie inspired me to work hard and do a good job. He was tough.”
Nappy eventually moved on to Sun Valley Resort in 1974, where he helped put on big ski races at Bald Mountain.
Under the stern tutelage of Rowland, Nappy then became a leader in the snowcat crew on Bald Mountain. He assisted in the high level of snow grooming that Sun Valley Resort has become renowned for.
“Denzel taught me a lot,” Nappy remembers. “He was really tough on me.”
In 1988, the meandering of Nappy’s life took him to the backcountry, and he fell in love with mountain goats and has since been devoted to guiding.
It started by helping a friend who was an established mountain goat guide. “I was taken worldwide because of mountain goats,” Nappy says. “I fell in love with the animal, and still to this day, it’s a passion.”
His mountain goat guiding has been featured in Sun Valley Guide and “Capturing The Valley—Observing the Mountain Goat,” a photo essay from local acclaimed outdoors photographer Jeffrey H Lubeck & MESH Art, to which Nappy was Lubeck’s guide.
Nappy then spent 27 years at Ketchum’s Elephant’s Perch before another fateful door opened. In 2013, he would notch emcee onto his resumé when he took over leading the Wagon Days Parade in Ketchum. On the day of the parade, the usual emcee of the event—Gary Stivers—went missing, and the show was about to go on.
“They needed someone to announce the parade, and I was the only one at the Perch, so they gave me a big book and off I went.”
Nappy’s passion for announcing the parade grew each year.
He added good music and historical information to make the parade even better.
It was a testament to how one small act of kindness can become a lifelong fondness. Nappy will always be remembered as the best emcee at the Wagon Days Parade.
As for his nickname, that’s still a mystery. Not even his own daughter knows the roots of ‘Nappy.’ When he’s not in the mountains guiding mountain goat excursions, being the voice of Wagon Days or grooming that perfect Sun Valley corduroy, Nappy is comfortable right at home waiting for what life throws at him next.