We are heartbroken to announce the death of Harlan “Sonny” Davis, age 71 of Portland, Maine on Thursday, December 7, 2023. Sonny had a 45-year tenure at Pleasant Mountain and served 17 years as Ski Patrol Director. He served with the Navy Seals for six years before moving to Bridgton. After retiring from the mountain, he worked for McIver Electric where they were exceptionally supportive of him.
Sonny is predeceased by his daughter, Lindsay Davis. Sonny is survived by his partner MaryAnn Butts, son Scott and wife Stephanie, son Ryan and Stephanie Ross, as well as his grandchildren Taylor, Paige, Logan, Spencer, and Samantha.
Following is the eulogy Darryl Trafford delivered at Sonny’s service.
My name is Darryl Trafford, I have been a lifelong patroller and friend of Sonny. Our patrol was founded by Jimmy Jones, in Portland, Maine in 1936, as the “Forest City Ski Patrol.” At that time, it was the first ski patrol in Maine. In 1938, the patrol was moved to Pleasant Mountain and renamed the Pleasant Mountain Ski Patrol. Jimmy was confirmed as the patrol leader, a position he held through 1972. In 1972, Jimmy retired and Rolly Seavey was brought in as the new PD. Rolly had previously served as the patrol leader at Burnt Meadow Mountain in Brownfield. Rolly reached out and invited many members of that now-defunct patrol to join him.
In 1973 my mother and my older brother Danny joined the patrol. That same winter, my older sister Donna, and I were recruited for a new Junior Patroller program. Rolly had asked one of his new patrollers to start that program. That new guy was Sonny Davis. Two of his buddies that he had served with in Vietnam had just been discharged through Brunswick Naval Air station and were hired by Rolly. Sonny and I quickly hit it off, and since then, our friendship continued. At one point or another, Sonny had a hand in training or working with eight of us Traffords. If you include my mom, and my sons Jordan and Cam, my family has 128 years of service to the Pleasant Mountain Ski Patrol. That wouldn’t have happened without Sonny. All of us Traffords considered Sonny to be part of our family.
Sonny grew up as a military brat. While his father was stationed in Colorado, Sonny learned to ski at Arapahoe Basin. He talked a lot about skiing the snowfields, dropping off the west side cornice, and taking runs on Pallavicini, which was touted as the longest, steepest, widest, lift-served trail in the country. Many of you will remember seeing the trail map of A Basin hanging on the wall in the outer patrol room.
After we earned our senior rockers together in 1983, I treated myself to a trip to Colorado, to ski Arapahoe Basin, and took a few runs on Pallavicini. Yes, it was as badass as Sonny had claimed. The sign at the top of Pallavicini said “SKI IT IF YOU DARE.”
In the mid-80s, Pleasant Mountain freestyle legend Gregg Stump bought his first movie camera. He stopped in at the patrol shack and asked Sonny and me to take some runs with him on the east headwall. He wanted to practice tracking skiers with that new camera. When he later released his first ski movie, Sonny and I attended the premier at the Brunswick in OOB.
A question for some here. Does Danny or David Gyger, H3, Michael or Tom Bull, or any others that grew up hanging out at the patrol shack, recall getting hung up by your ski pants on the coat hook or having the top lift attendant stop the old blue chair so we could pelt you with snowballs? We worked hard at the mountain, but we always had time for fun.
In 1983, following a winter of training and clinicing, Sonny and I both earned our senior alpine designation from NSP thanks to a lot of nudging and support from Henry Hudson, and Tom and June Gyger.
In 1987, when I got married for the first time, Sonny stood up with me as my best man. He gave me a simple bit of advice ahead of the ceremony. Run! I should have listened to him.
The Pleasant Mountain Ski Patrol has always had a very strong presence on the Maine Region staff. As a result, we have ended up staffing and hosting many region and division events. Those have included Student Patrol clinics, OEC and Ski & Toboggan clinics, and OEC Senior Evaluations to name a few. Sonny was always in the middle of those events helping and cheering on our participating patrollers when he could.
Throughout the 80s and 90s we had an aggressive training program for both adults and students. We trained as many as 40 new patrollers in a year. At one point we counted 24 senior patrollers that were regularly working with candidates. That training incorporated a lot of Sonny’s concepts of keeping it fun and pushing ourselves. Who hasn’t seen us side slipping the crud line along the trail doing one-footed sideslips or even kick turns in the ice balls left by the groomer.
Through all of this, our student program kept going strong. Between 2004 and 2017, three of our students took first place overall at the Eastern Division Student Patrol event: Courtney, Matt, and Jordan. Many more achieved second and third place finishes. Emily and Morgan both won the prestigious Hans Hyson trophy for leadership. Sonny worked and celebrated with all of them. During all this fun, Sonny made time to coach the Lake Region Ski Team to a bunch of individual and team state championships.
In 2016, Sonny and I received our 40-year service awards from NSP together. In 2017, Sonny and I received the Distinguished Service Award from NSP together. In 2026 we would have been up for our 50-year service awards.