Shawnee Peak: A Winter Playground for the Whole Family
When I made the shift to Shawnee Peak last winter from Maine’s larger, more resort-focused ski mountains to teach my three-year-old to ski, I expected a relaxed, mid-sized mountain geared towards family ski days. What I hadn’t envisioned, in addition, was a mountain whose terrain could challenge and sustain me along with a vibrant après ski scene.
Before last winter, everything I knew about Shawnee Peak had been garnered from a half dozen night skiing trips—a feature the mountain is widely known for. With the limited terrain offered to night skiers, I didn’t have a good handle on the full oeuvre of the jewel of Bridgton when I purchased my season’s pass last winter. But, my friends with young kids raved about Shawnee Peak as the premier family mountain in Maine, so with a deep desire to convert my children into life-long skiing zealots, I decided I was in.
From the first trip to the mountain with my son, Otis, I knew this was the place.
The parking scene at Shawnee Peak is reliably manageable. Even on days when we didn’t pull into the lot until 9:30 a.m., we still found a spot where my son could manage the walk to the lodge by himself. If you’re a parent, you understand the importance of this perk. From the cozy lodge, it’s a short hike to two magic carpets: Snow Pine Carpet and the longer Lil Pine Carpet. Kids are free on both with a paying adult.
It didn’t take long before Otis pointed to the Rabbit Run Triple chair and exclaimed, “I want to ride the high lift!” For just $12 we found ourselves riding up the beginner slope on the chairlift—Otis’s eyes darting around the landscape with pure wonderment as the world slid by.
What’s nice about the snug children’s terrain is that when Otis was tired, we’d ski to the lodge, eat our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and enjoy the easy walk back to the Jeep where he quickly fell asleep in his car seat, the outline of a smile lining his face.
The experience with kids was everything I could have hoped for, but then came the real test: What’s in it for dad when he can slip away solo or with friends? Turns out, plenty.
“We are pretty blessed with our terrain, which offers a great experience for both families and advanced skiers,” said Geoff Homer, whose family has owned Shawnee Peak for more than 26 years. “I truly believe there is something for everyone.”
With last year’s snowfall and Shawnee’s dedication to blowing snow over 98 percent of its terrain, I often found myself carving through steep, demanding runs, especially off the Sunnyside Triple. With trails such as Upper Kancamangus, Peter’s Plunge, Cody’s Caper, and East Glades, when there’s snow, there are a myriad of bumps and trees to maneuver through— not to mention the secret pockets of heady glades hidden throughout the mountain.
“We place a tremendous emphasis on snowmaking,” said Homer. “Our investment and commitment to having a superior snow surface every day is on the top of our minds each morning.”
On the nights I got out to ski under the glow of sodium lights with friends, it was a joy tearing down the runs off Summit Triple. Though, be warned, the trails can become icy and skied off as the night wears on.
When the bitter wind chilled our bones, we’d ski to Blizzard’s Pub on the top floor of the base lodge for their modest, but solid selection of Maine beer and a choice burger, before slipping back out for a few last dreamy runs beneath a million pulsing stars.
From tenderhearted day trips with Otis to kid-free runs ripping down the mountain, Shawnee Peak opened up in front of me last winter with astonishing charm.
— Text & Photos: Dave Patterson. Dave is a novelist, beer critic, and lover of Maine winters. His novel, Soon the Light Will be Perfect, is available online and at independent bookstores throughout Maine.