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Features > Resorts > Shawnee Peak, Maine

Shawnee Peak, Maine Hot

SKIME_046Don’t let Shawnee Peak’s (mid)-size fool you—this compact resort offers more than 40 trails and glades, five lifts, 220 acres and 1,350 feet of vertical. The mountain is familyfriendly, the snow making has a reputation for being the best, and the resort even boasts the largest night skiing mountain in New England.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION,

From early December through the end of March/early April, people from Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York head to Shawnee Peak. The mountain, a 1,500-acre lake, and another 11 nearby lakes make the Peak a destination for those who own property in the area.

Its location also makes it the perfect day-trip ski area. Shawnee Peak is less than an hour from Portland, Maine, less than two hours from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, two and a half hours from Boston, and a mere 20-minute drive from North Conway, New Hampshire.

SKIME_035Capitalizing on its location, the resort is open until 9 p.m. on weeknights and 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, which makes it the perfect place to squeeze in some runs after work or school. (They also stay open until 1 a.m. a couple of nights a season—complete with midnight fireworks.) Seventeen trails and four lifts are open for night skiing, and rates drop both midweek and weekends for afternoon/night skiing.

“We get a lot of midweek traffic because of our location,” explains Shawnee Peak owner Chet Homer, adding that most of the midweek and day trip clientele is from Maine and New Hampshire. “We are, however, a drive-in, driveout resort. There’s no hotel here (yet), but there are about 100 condominiums in both our development and house lots…Our long-term goal is to grow overnight capacity.”

In the meantime, local high school ski teams, church congregations, and other groups often head to Shawnee Peak after school or work.

PERKS OF THE PARK

Because Shawnee Peak has only one base, Homer says it’s the perfect place for families to come and let their kids ski without worry of getting lost.

“We are also known for our excellent snow product—we have great snow making and are committed to quality grooming and snow making,” he adds.

The peak features ski runs that attract both beginners and intermediate skiers. “[Our customers] learn how to ski here. Then, when they are older, they come back with their families for some relaxing, fun skiing without extremes,” notes Homer. “Our terrain is perfect for snowboarders and kids. We also host business meetings on site, as well as weddings and other functions.”

Some of the best views and terrain in New England can be found at Shawnee Peak, including spectacular views of Mt. Washington and the lake. In addition to summer hiking, under consideration is a canopy tour, which would be a year-round attraction for the resort. This would capitalize on the summer bump in population, which increases up to 10 fold.

DINING

Food and beverage options at Shawnee Peak range from cafeteria style to upscale pub. The Base Lodge cafeteria, open half an hour before the lifts open until the lifts close, serves breakfast, Starbucks coffee, baked goods, and lunch/ dinner fare such as burgers, hot dogs, soup, fries, pizza, sandwiches, salads, and grab and go snacks and treats. (The cafeteria will be open year-round if the canopy tour comes to fruition.)

Blizzards PubUpstairs, Blizzard’s Pub boasts beautiful views of the terrain and is open from 11:30 a.m. until the lifts close (usually up to one hour after lifts close). The Pub serves appetizers, lunch, dinner, specials, desserts, and features a full-bar service and live entertainment.

The East Lodge, which is at the bottom of the East Chair, offers minimal food service on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., serving breakfast, lunch, and snacks.

The resort is run by an in-house staff that, during the peak of the busy winter season, includes 250 to 300 employees, both part and fulltime, who oversee rentals, repairs, food and beverage, and lessons (the only thing leased out is the ski shop). They have an internal marketing staff, which subs out the website design and utilizes a consultant for their media buys. They also recently hired an SEO expert, and Homer says they strive to stay on top of the latest social media (Face Book, Twitter, etc.). In the summer, the resort scales back to 10 employees or less.

“All of our management staff comes back for multiple seasons, and our general manager has been here for 25 years,” Homer notes, adding that they like to keep their employees happy.

GREEN IS GOLD

Shawnee Peak is doing its part to save the planet. They use fluorescent lights, light timers, and fast, efficient hand driers instead of paper in the restrooms.

Because snowmaking operations use the most energy on the mountain, they utilize high-energy efficient snow guns. By replacing more than 75 older, smaller, low-efficiency snow guns with 60 larger, high-efficiency guns, Shawnee Peak is able to make more snow at higher temperatures, using up to 25 percent less fuel. They have tripled their snow-making capacity, and are just under 4,000 gallons per minute now. All snowmaking pumps have been converted to variable eatingspeed drives to reduce consumption by up to 30 percent. They also upgraded the heating plants in all the buildings with new boilers. In addition, the resort is heated by propane, which is clean and efficient, as well as cuts down the need for compressed air.

“We have reduced our oil consumption by half, and we also make charitable contributions in an effort to offset our carbon footprint,” Homer adds. To date, they have offset more than 800 tons of carbon, and partnered with The Royal River Youth Conservation Corps to plant more than 600 trees to offset carbon emissions from mountain operations.

MARKETING THE MOUNTAIN

Shawnee Peak, which opened in 1938, is one of the oldest ski resorts in the country and featured the first chair lift in Maine.

The 2009-2010 season is Homer’s sixteenth operating the resort. “When I bought it, it was pretty tired,” he recalls of the resort. “I’ve turned it around, and the local reaction has been positive. We employ a lot of locals seasonally, and the investments made into the resort have also boosted local real estate.”

While Shawnee Peak has made a name for itself locally, Homer is hoping to cast the net a bit wider. Currently, marketing efforts are targeting residents in southern New Hampshire and the greater Boston area with radio spots. Another marketing effort involves loading all of their rental forms into a system, then following up with a personal phone call to anyone with a New Hampshire phone number.

Every weekend, Shawnee Peak offers fun events, including radio station remotes and après ski parties. But it’s not all fun and games at Shawnee Peak. After this summer, every lift will either be new or rebuilt, and last year a new base lodge opened. “All of our season pass holders see improvements every year, and that keeps them coming back, too,” notes Homer.

With quality snow making, a great location, night skiing, excellent customer service, and improvements made to the resort year after year, it’s no wonder Shawnee Peak is a favorite destination for skiers near and far.

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