Skiers and riders make their way up the chairlift at Shawnee Peak ski area in Bridgton. The new owners of Shawnee Peak are considering changing the name back to Pleasant Mountain. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer
BRIDGTON — What’s in a name? Ask the people who ski at Shawnee Peak ski area.
One of Maine’s most popular smaller ski areas, Shawnee Peak got its name from a Pennsylvania ski area named after a town in the foothills of the Pocono Mountains. The town’s name derives from a Native American tribe that lived in the area centuries ago.
And there are some longtime skiers and season pass holders at Shawnee Peak in Bridgton who don’t like it. They would rather see the ski area, which boasts the most night skiing terrain in New England, revert back to its original name: Pleasant Mountain.
Shawnee Peak has had its current name since 1988. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer
“(Shawnee) is a corporation in Pennsylvania. It’s in the Poconos. … It has nothing to do with Maine. I would support it going back to Pleasant Mountain,” said Ken Dixon from Hamilton, Massachusetts, who has skied the mountain for 40 years and stays at a second home in nearby Denmark.
Others feel differently, like Kim Labrecque of Scarborough, who has skied Shawnee Peak for most of her 35 years, and is now teaching her two children to ski there.
“I’m not afraid of change. It’s in my nature to navigate change on a daily basis as a business owner. But I have known it as Shawnee Peak for 30 years. It is the mountain I’ve skied my whole life – it’s home,” Labrecque said last weekend after dropping her children off at ski school at the mountain.
The new owners of the ski area are considering changing the name at the bequest of many like Dixon – and there is some precedent to them doing so.
On Oct. 22, Boyne Resorts purchased Shawnee Peak, adding to a northern New England ski area portfolio that includes Sunday River and Sugarloaf in Maine and Loon Mountain in New Hampshire. Boyne shortened the name Sugarloaf/USA to simply Sugarloaf when it took over operations of the Carrabassett Valley ski area in 2007.
Boyne will consider a name change at Shawnee Peak – but not during the winter ski season while its focus remains on a smooth transition of ownership, said Julie Ard, Boyne’s senior vice president of corporate communications and programs.
“When Boyne Resorts acquired Shawnee Peak, several requests related to changing the resort’s name were received by the resort and our corporate office. We value all input and feedback received from our stakeholders, and acknowledged their direct messages, stating a name change could be considered in the future,” Ard said in an email.
For 50 years, Shawnee Peak was named after its home mountain. Then its was renamed after a Pennsylvania ski area that is named after a Pennsylvania town. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer
Some call the story behind how Pleasant Mountain was renamed Shawnee Peak in 1988 a bit random.
Pleasant Mountain opened in 1938 and for the next 50 years was named after the ski area’s home mountain in Bridgton.
Then in 1988, its name became linked with a ski area and village in Pennsylvania.
When the Shawnee Mountain Corporation – which then owned Shawnee Mountain Ski Area in Pennsylvania – purchased the Bridgton ski area in 1988, it changed the name from Pleasant Mountain “to have a more cohesive name,” said Shawnee Mountain Ski Area Marketing Director Rachel Wyckoff.
Shawnee Mountain in the Pocono Mountains opened in 1975 and was named for a nearby village. That town was named for the Shawnee Tribe, which was pushed west by white settlers in the 1700s. Today the tribe is headquartered in Oklahoma, far from the Pocono Mountains, and certainly some distance from Maine.
“They named the mountain after Shawnee-on-Delaware, the town which has been named that since the 1700s,” Wyckoff said in an email.
Some skiers who ski or faithfully buy season passes at Shawnee Peak want to go back to the original name for nostalgia sake, or to align it with Maine history.
“It’s named for a company in Pennsylvania. There is no Shawnee tribe in Maine. I’d be fine with Penobscot Mountain – but not Shawnee,” said Jeff Howard of Portland, who started skiing at the ski area back in the 1980s when it was called Pleasant Mountain.
Steve Lubrano of Hanover, New Hampshire, whose family has a ski house in Bridgton and who has been a Shawnee Peak skier since the 1970s, said adopting the old name is a no-brainer.
“The name doesn’t fit Maine culture. It is a pleasant place to ski. They should call it Pleasant Mountain,” Lubrano said.
Jennifer Clayton of Hingham, Massachusetts, who also has skied the mountain for some 40 years from a family ski house, chimed in as the two skied the mountain on Jan. 22.
“The past owners did some good things under the name Shawnee Peak. But I’d like to see it go back to Pleasant Mountain ski area. The name (now) has nothing to do with Maine,” Clayton said.
Ken Dixon, right, of Hamilton, Mass., and Phil Murphy of Wenham, Mass., both want the ski area renamed – as long as ticket prices do not increase. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer
Pamela Marshall of Denmark has been skiing at Shawnee Peak since 2009, shortly before she and her family of four moved to Maine from Massachusetts. She’s only known the ski area as Shawnee Peak.
And she wants the name changed back.
“From a marketing standpoint, I‘m not sure how costly it is to do. But if money were not an object, it would be nice. I think people would appreciate it. My husband remembers going to Pleasant Mountain as a kid. People have fond memories of that,” Marshall said.
Others point out the ski area has been known as Shawnee Peak for 34 years – and there’s a lot of history in those three decades, two generations of skiers, in fact.
“It’s what’s familiar, what’s recognizable: ‘Sneaking to the Peak.’ The majority of people who ski there now know it as Shawnee Peak,” said Shaun Morrison of Windham, who has skied Shawnee the past several years. He also skied there while growing up in Sanford in the mid-1990s.
Glenn Warren of Massachusetts, who has a second home in Bridgton, said name recognition is everything. He sees it in his work as a travel agent. If a hotel or resort changes its name under a new owner, he said, previous fans of that vacation destination drop off because they think their old favorite has changed.
“I’ve been here skiing almost 40 years,” Warren said. “People in their 20s and even 40s know it as Shawnee Peak.”
Yet, at the end of the day, even many of those who prefer and want the name Pleasant Mountain said if lift ticket prices stay low, they will support Shawnee Peak.
“I love it here. I’ve raised my kids here. I would support the name going back. But we may not like it so much if the season ticket prices went up,” said Dixon.
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