With Shawnee Peak crossed off, The List has now dwindled down to only one area per state (domestically). I expect the remainder of the stateside list to fall in short order leaving only the Quebec areas. Perhaps The List will expand to include more of New York such as the Catskills.
Exploring new areas has become a favorite part of my season even when exploring areas that I know I will never return to. I knew pretty quickly that Shawnee was such an area but that only heightens the feeling of exploration, knowing that this is not only a first time, but also a last time.
Shawnee Peak has incredible views of the White Mountains. While riding the Summit Express triple chair, I rose above the cloud deck at the mid-station and gained 180 degree views of an impressive undercast. Mount Washington was particularly stunning as seen from near the summit of Shawnee Peak, the best view of Mount Washington from any ski area save Wildcat.
The cloud deck of the undercast was only a few hundred feet below the top of the chairlift and the fog would not relent throughout the morning. Indeed, the morning fog deepened around noontime with only the unload station of the triple chairs retaining an afternoon view. I can only imagine what the view might be like on a clear day without an undercast with the view of the lake at the foot of Shawnee.
The undercast made for challenging skiing with visibility limited to three dozen feet at best and often times worse. Shawnee’s trails are generally ideal for fast groomer ripping but the limited visibility forced me to keep the speed in check. Conditions were generally a slippery machine groomed though the limited sun exposed trails softened somewhat for more enjoyable turns.
Despite the morning trail report showing 36/40 trails and glades open, options were limited to trails with snow making and grooming. The trail report was downright misleading and showed several trails open that were roped (Haggett’s, Peter’s Plunge, East Glades, Upper Kancamangus, and The Gut). It was disappointing having made a visit to this mountain expecting it to be mostly open but in fact it was only three-quarters open. I can understand the need to close down natural snow trails due to conditions but many of these trails looked acceptable and the trail report should have been updated with these closures.
Even without having skied some of Shawnee’s natural snow trails, it was clear that Shawnee’s bread and butter is its snow making, grooming, and 1300′ of night skiing (perhaps the most in New England?). The mountain attempts to offer a variety of niche offerings such as family activities, racing, park, learning, freestyle, and night skiing.
It is a mid-sized family area with substantially more vertical than most family areas and perhaps the best night skiing offering in New England. I couldn’t help but think of Shawnee as what Pat’s Peak would be like if it had twice as much vertical or what Tenney should have been (a mountain with similar pitch, terrain, trail options, lift setup, and night skiing, though more limited). The trails tend to smash into each other and lack distinction and character with about a quarter of the trails being short connectors. While the vertical is big for a mid-sized area, the trail count is a little misleading for what is available.
Shawnee skis bigger than its 1300′ would suggest but doesn’t have enough vertical to compete with larger resorts, nor does it have as good terrain as other nearby mid-sized areas such as Black Mountain (NH) and Mount Abram. The trees are extensively large and dense softwood with limited opportunities for quality glading. This isn’t a destination mountain for sure but a worth while diversion for those already heading towards North Conway to ski the Mount Washington Valley.