Reporting Jay Lloyd
Imagine a ski area where parents and kids can both enjoy skiing and riding without either getting too far away from one another or getting into each other’s hair. That’s Shawnee Mountain, which is often described as “family-friendly.” At Shawnee, there are just enough challenges to keep young, energetic sliders interested and laidback parents feeling relaxed. For the more than 40 years that I’ve been visiting, two programs have consistently kept families engaged. Youngsters have learned to ski and ride in the highly regarded “SKIwee” learning program, and then the family can test its skills weekly on the NASTAR race course. With Olympic fever spreading as the Sochi games approach, the Shawnee slalom gates are seeing a spike in traffic. Let’s take the mountain tour. – Jay Lloyd
Shawnee Mountain occupies the eastern edge of the Pocono Mountains, close to the Delaware River and scenic Delaware Water Gap. It’s dotted with clutches of condo accommodations as well as a picturesque mountain village complete with a general store and a turn-of-the-20th-century resort. The mountain terrain offers skiers and riders a chance to put together a variety of runs that cover changing contours and steepness. Go from easy cruising on “Upper Pennsylvania” into black diamond “Tecumseh,” or take a meandering cruise with panoramic photo ops on the long, blue-designated “Kittatinny” trail that runs from summit to base. Teens will be scrambling right or left off the lifts to test the terrain parks and their assortment of tables, rails and jumps, before picking a path to the lodge.
Slopes and trails: 23 with substantial terrain for beginning and intermediate sliding
Terrain Parks: 2
Lifts: 8 including a high speed quad and 2 carpet lift
Vertical Feet: 700
Tubing: 6 chutes
WHAT IT COSTS
All-day adult lift tickets are spotted at $45 midweek and $55 on weekends. Youth tags (18 and under) go for $35 midweek and $40 on weekends. There are discounts for college students, active military personnel and seniors. If you’re over 70, you ski free. Find all the rates here.
One of the most popular learning programs, SKIwee, has been a fixture at Shawnee for decades. Designed for 4 to 6 year-olds, the three hour sessions share a uniform learning plan across the country. Wherever you travel, the SKIwee student will pick up where he or she left off. Learning programs for younger and older kids are also structured around a SKIwee format. For the adult beginner to advanced skier and snowboarder, Shawnee serves up a variety of group and private lessons along with multi-day racing instructions. Group lessons are $35, while private instruction clocks in at $85. Beginner packages are available that include lift tags, rental equipment and lessons. See all the rates here.
Shawnee Mountain hosts the national standardized racing program, NASTAR, which anyone can enter every Saturday and Sunday. Registration puts you on a national roster and allows racing at NASTAR sites across the country. Tickets for two timed runs through the gates ring up at $7. Take five runs for $13. Races are handicapped for age and ability. Get all the info and register here.
SIPPING AND SUPPING
There are snacks in the “Greenhouse,” but a robust selection of burgers, dogs, soups and stews, sandwiches and noshes in two cafeterias. The Trepp Lodge cafeteria, named for a pioneering Shawnee manager, serves a local microbrew to wash down the fries. “Hickory Licks” is the après ski spot in the main lodge, combining a full service eatery with a lively bar.
For skiing parents of very young children, Shawnee offers nursery service. Mom doesn’t have to ski alone while Dad does the lodge sitting and then vice versa. Children have to be 18 months old and the tab is $5 an hour or $40 a day.
A variety of condo accommodations are available adjacent to the mountain or within minutes of the slopes. They are fully furnished with kitchens, cookware and dishwashers, and many have fireplaces. Some feature hot tubs and Jacuzzis. I’ve stayed at and enjoyed the Shawnee Village and the Villas at Fernwood. But, as a traditionalist, I usually head for the classic Shawnee Inn. The resort dining and nightlife, along with refurbished rooms, cap a perfect couples’ day on the mountain. Check a sample of lodging choices here.
In nice weather, the drive can be a scenic excursion, depending on where you’re coming from and how much time you want to spend. But from Philadelphia and many suburban locations, the quickest route is:
The Pa. Turnpike Northeast extension Route 476 N to Route 22 East exit in Allentown. Follow Route 22 East to Route 33 North into I-80 East to PA Exit 309, Route 209 North and follow Shawnee Mountain signs.