Big Squaw Mountain has been a mountain stuck in limbo for years. The lifts and lodges are for the most part old, decrepit, and in massive need of repair and/or replacement. The upper mountain has been closed for more than a decade due to a chairlift accident that injured four people. And then there’s the offensive name, which has stayed put in spite of a federal law passed in 2000 led by Maine Senator Angus King to ban and remove the usage of the name on state and federal land. But with the mountain being privately owned, ownership doesn’t technically need to change the name of the ski resort. The name has been deemed misogynistic and racist due to its usage by white settlers who pillaged Native American land in their attempts to obtain manifest destiny. With Palisades Tahoe, formerly Squaw Valley, changing their name earlier this year, the pressure has cranked up on Big Squaw Mountain to rebrand.
This past winter, new potential investors came into the picture. Plans for overhauling the mountain includes a new base lodge, a brewpub, a sixty-four-room hotel and conference center, a two hundred boat slip marina at the adjacent Moosehead Lake, the replacement or restoration of the closed chairlifts, a new quad chairlift, and surface lift to connect the upper and lower mountain, zipline tour, snowmaking improvements, and more. The investors have obtained $135 million in financing from the state and county.
According to the Portland Press Herald, one of the most immediate investments will be rebranding and a name change. Perry Williams, the managing partner of the potential new ownership group, said the following about the matter: “I met with the Native American community. That’s their desire and it’s ours, too. It always has been. We will look at different names and consider what the right one will be. It’s not as easy as it sounds. But we are definitely changing the name. We want to do the right thing.” The name change will become official when the sale with the current owner, James Confalone, which will likely happen in the next couple of months.
Here’s what the current owner, James Confalone, said about the idea of a name change in 2020, in what is a classic case of whataboutism:
“Why would I ever do that? What do you think the Kennedy compound in Massachusetts is called? Squaw Island. If it’s good enough for the Kennedys, it’s good enough for me. When this issue was first raised (in the early 2000s) we had 200 calls a day come into the hotel, and not one person said they wanted the name changed. It has nothing to do with insulting anyone. People in Maine don’t know what property rights are. They think they own everything. We have the legal right to name it (what we want).”
To call the current owner, James Confalone, a patriot against cancel culture is a little silly. To put it simply, the man has done little to improve the mountain since he bought it in 1995. The upper mountain has seen no improvement since the chairlift broke in 2004, and the lower mountain is now leased to and operated by the Friends of the Mountain organization. The non-profit has been able to put in some snowmaking improvements to keep it afloat, but the place is clearly past its prime. Rather than fixing the issues, Confalone has illegally harvested timber to pay off loans that he never should have taken in the first place. According to the Bangor Daily News, a state judge even has tried to force Confalone to fix the issues on the upper mountain. Another example of his negligence was closing the resort’s hotel around 2006, and never working towards reopening it. For now, James Confalone owns the mountain, and its future remains in limbo. Photos of the potential new development are below.