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Fishy biz at the Big

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Reflecting a year in which Big Mountain has undergone a number of major changes, the resort’s name is now changing with it.

Winter Sports Inc. (WSI), the corporation that operates Big Mountain ski resort, announced the name change to Whitefish Mountain Resort June 13.

According to WSI CEO Fred Jones, the old name was “highly generic” and often confused with other resorts that have “big” in their names, such as Montana’s Big Sky Resort.

The name change is part of a larger makeover of the company’s brand image. WSI hired brandadvisors Inc., the San Francisco-based firm responsible for the images of Apple, National Public Radio and FedEx, to guide the re-branding.

Jones says the resort will henceforth focus on “cutting through the usual marketing hype that resorts tend to get into, and really looking at what is it about Whitefish and Big Mountain that people like.”

He says the “laid back” and “low key” atmosphere of Whitefish is part of what WSI wants to convey.

Along with the name change, the resort’s logo will change from a snowflake to a fish whose fins morph into a mountaintop, leaves and water.

This isn’t the first time the idea of changing the resort’s name has come up. In the 1980s, there was talk of changing the name to “Legendary.” That idea never took off.

In the last year, William P. Foley II, chairman and CEO of Fortune 500 company Fidelity National Financial Inc., became the majority shareholder in WSI, a company founded almost exclusively by local shareholders in 1947, with about 65 percent of its shares. Foley and other shareholders have invested $20 million into resort infrastructure, a new day lodge and two new ski lifts.

Some Whitefish residents have been wary of the changes on the mountain, and Jones expects some apprehension over the name change.

“I suspect that many locals will continue to call it Big Mountain,” Jones says, “and that’s fine. Our motivation for a lot of this is, ‘How do we communicate with people that don’t know us?’”

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