Mutations in stem-loop IIa of yeast U2 RNA cause cold-sensitive growth and cold-sensitive U2 small nuclear ribonucleoprotein function in vitro. Cold-sensitive U2 small nuclear RNA adopts an alternative conformation that occludes the loop and disrupts the stem but does so at both restrictive and permissive temperatures. To determine whether alternative U2 RNA structure causes the defects, we tested second-site mutations in U2 predicted to disrupt the alternative conformation. We find that such mutations efficiently suppress the cold-sensitive phenotypes and partially restore correct U2 RNA folding. A genetic search for additional suppressors of cold sensitivity revealed two unexpected mutations in the base of an adjacent stem-loop. Direct probing of RNA structure in vivo indicates that the suppressors of cold sensitivity act to improve the stability of the essential stem relative to competing alternative structures by disrupting the alternative structures. We suggest that many of the numerous cold-sensitive mutations in a variety of RNAs and RNA-binding proteins could be a result of changes in the stability of a functional RNA conformation relative to a competing structure. The presence of an evolutionarily conserved U2 sequence positioned to form an alternative structure argues that this region of U2 is dynamic during the assembly or function of the U2 small nuclear ribonucleoprotein.