The author before one of his very first lessons at Shawnee Peak in 2000.

Strapping two boards to your feet and barreling down a mountain may seem crazy to some, but for skiers like me? Well, it’s the greatest thrill there is.

While born and raised in Massachusetts, I grew up skiing in Maine. If you ask anyone for a suggestion of a Maine ski mountain to check out, Sugarloaf and Sunday River will likely be at the top of their list. But there’s a mountain in southwestern Maine that some New Englanders seem to sometimes overlook: Shawnee Peak in Bridgton.

Having opened its trails in 1937, Shawnee Peak is the oldest major ski area in Maine. Its location on Pleasant Mountain also makes it one of the smallest, measuring just over 2,000 feet – less than half the height of Sugarloaf Mountain.

That’s likely why it, at times, seems to be forgotten – a speedy skier will likely spend more time on the chairlift than the slopes. However, Shawnee Peak offers skiing for all experience levels.

I learned to ski when I was 4 years old, thanks to a few lessons from Shawnee Peak’s ski school as well as teachings from my father. I started out on the rope-tow,  now replaced by “the magic carpet,” slowly making my way down about the most gradual hill you’ll ever see, trying not to fall or run into another pupil.

My father and I skiing at Shawnee Peak in 2005. Drew Johnson / The Forecaster

Soon, I graduated to the Rabbit Run – also called the Bunny Hill – which has the shortest chairlift on the mountain. I went down that trail for the first time in nearly a decade last winter when one of my friends decided to pick up the sport. I recall it being much steeper as a child.


Next came the Pine Slope (also called The Quad as its chairlift holds four skiers or boarders per chair). While I’ve been skiing for 21 years now, the Pine is still one of my favorites … I may be that guy blazing down the trail, weaving around some of the more inexperienced skiers but, hey, I used to be one of them, watching speedsters whip by me as I mastered the art of turning. It’s part of the graduation ceremony to the more challenging parts of the mountain.

The largest chairlift is referred to as The Triple because it … well, you can probably guess.

The great part about The Triple is that it has a midway station (it’s really two-thirds of the way up), which gives skiers the option to forego the steeper trails stemming from the summit. This was the option I took before I felt seasoned enough to go all the way to the top. It’s a useful tool for parents of young skiers as well – there’s not much that’s worse than a child throwing a temper tantrum halfway down a mountain. Just ask my father.

The view as the sun sets over the slopes of Shawnee Peak, and another session of night skiing begins. Drew Johnson / The Forecaster

At the top of The Triple, skiers can choose between a number of trails, ranging from Sunset Boulevard with its tagline “The Easiest Way Down” to Dungeons – a double-black diamond that forces you to dodge some trees.

Then you have the East, or Sunnyside portion of the mountain, which features a number of intermediate trails with a small lodge at the bottom that serves up small bites, candy, hot chocolate and beer.

One of Shawnee Peak’s greatest offerings is night skiing. Did chores get in the way Saturday afternoon? Did you get out of work early on a weekday and want to hit the slopes? No problem; the lifts spin until 8 p.m. most nights.


My dad and I on The Triple at Shawnee Peak in 2020. Drew Johnson / The Forecaster

Some of the trails may have gotten easier for me over the years, and the hot chocolates at the lodge may have turned to beers, but an outing at Shawnee Peak is always an enjoyable one – especially when shared with family and friends.

And, I’ll admit, there is bias here: Shawnee Peak is very near and dear to my heart. From the lodge to the chairlift, the bunny hill to the summit, I’ve mourned deaths and relationships, made new friends, laughed with old ones and have created 20 years of memories; good, bad and funny. It’s an experience I’ve shared with my father for over two decades, and we’ve had a lot of important conversations while freezing our butts off with our skis dangling off the chair lift.

But the best thing about skiing is when you’re barreling down the mountain at high speeds, you can’t think about anything else. It’s just you, the snow and the two boards strapped to your feet.

Oh, and the view of Moose Pond from the slopes? Intoxicating.

The view of Moose Pond from the slopes of Shawnee Peak in Bridgton. Drew Johnson / The Forecaster

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