Even if you don’t know John “Two Scoops” Cooper personally, you’ve likely seen him running the Jud Wiebe Trail or skiing the nasty moguls of Kant-Mak-M. “In 2014 I did 250 Wiebes, 1,000 Makms,” Cooper said Friday. “I’m OCD, but don’t forget that I’m also ADHD and bipolar.”
Then Cooper, a waiter and delivery driver for Brown Dog Pizza, flipped his long blond hair, fidgeted in his seat and scanned the joint for any new customers the way a hawk scans a grassy field for edible mice.
Figuratively speaking, Coop’s brain often goes to far-off places, and soon this will be literally true as well: After dozens of years in Telluride, the “skilebrity” known as Two Scoops is moving at the end of the month to Taos, New Mexico.
Upheaval comes naturally to the 47-year-old native of Knoxville, Tennessee — which Cooper insists be identified as “home of the 1982 World’s Fair.” His first conscious memory, he said, “was visiting my dad in prison. He got arrested three months after I was born, arrested at 19 for weed and sentenced to five years.”
After graduating high school, Coop joined the Navy because “I didn’t want to follow in my dad’s footsteps. In the Navy, my superiors said, ‘You shouldn’t be in the military, you should be on tour with the Grateful Dead.’”
Cooper was serving on the USS Shasta in 1991 when he fell off a ladder and was injured. Said Cooper, “I took that opportunity — a medical discharge — to leave the Navy right before my ship was deployed to the Persian Gulf in the war.”
Cooper was then interrupted by his own train of thought: “My ship was christened the exact same day I was born, April 3, 1971,” he said.
Reined back to recalling the early ’90s, Cooper said the Navy helped him enroll at the University of Tennessee, where he majored in ethics because he wanted to be a lawyer. “I went on Dead tour and had bad grades,” he said. “But after Jerry (Garcia) died I got straight As.”
Instead of becoming a lawyer, Cooper pursued a graduate degree in philosophy … but not for long. He soon dropped out and moved to Asheville, North Carolina.
Two years into his stay in the Appalachians, Cooper tried snowboarding at Sugar Mountain Resort. “I caught the snowboarding bug bad,” Cooper said, “so in 2000 I took off for Colorado with two pitbulls and a Toyota truck looking for a new home.”
He checked out Crested Butte and Winter Park, but felt an urge to keep looking.
“I’d been to Telluride for Bluegrass in ’97, so I started driving that way,” Cooper recalled. “I was coming through Ridgway when I saw a dreadlocked hippie with his thumb out. It was Himay Palmer.”
When the pair arrived in town, Palmer told Cooper to pull up to a house on Main Street. Palmer went in and came out with the owner, who told the Tennesseean behind the wheel, “You can move in tomorrow.” Said Cooper: “Himay was a good first Tellurider to meet.”
The infamous bump skier snowboarded his first few years here while working at Cindybread and Baked In Telluride. Then he “fell in love with Widespread Panic.” He started a company of sorts — Widespread Panties, which, as the name suggests, was female underwear he sold at Panic shows. Touring with Panic took Cooper’s heart away from snowboarding, he said, so “I left Tride for Northern California to take part in the Green Rush.”
Yet Northern California also failed to hold Cooper’s attention. “I missed Telluride, so in 2009 I decided to come back. I took the train from California, so all I had with me was my guitar and a backpack.”
Because he’d left behind his snowboard, Cooper decided to spend his second stint in Telluride as a skier. Which is how he came to be known as that obsessive guy who skis Kant-Mak-M all the time. He spent most seasons doing 10 runs per day, seven days a week.
And Cooper might be better known for his long-running KOTO radio show, Two Scoops, though he was banned from the station in 2013 after an altercation with a manager. After that person left, Cooper was welcomed back and in fact aired a show last week.
Cooper smiles constantly and gets along with most everyone besides military supervisors. He has countless friends in Telluride, so why leave?
“I’ve had a good run here,” he said, “but it’s a big world and this is a small valley. I feel there’s something in Taos that is not here. Have you heard about the Taos Hum? Not everyone can hear it…”
Turns out, some residents and visitors of Taos have reported hearing a constant low-frequency buzzing or rumbling noise since the early 1990s, according to sporcle.com, which describes the Taos Hum “as a faint droning sound, similar to a diesel engine idling in the distance.”
Said Cooper: “I did blossom here as a hippie super hero, but I’m going to bury Two Scoops here and reinvent myself down there as ‘LoTus,’ a name I picked after it came to me in a dream. In Buddhism, the lotus represents a flower of purity emerging from the mud … maybe two scoops of mud.”
Cooper said he’s planning on driving out of Telluride on May 30. “I’m pretty sure that once I leave this valley, I’ll never be back. It’s time to move on. I have to start a new chapter in the Book of John Cooper. Bigger and better things await.”
When the interview ended, Cooper said, “Don’t make me look too crazy … no, wait, make me look crazy as hell.”