Resort Snapshot: Shawnee Peak, 02/05/2011 (Mid-Day Pass)

3 down, 30 to go...when can I go skiing??? (David Shedd photo)

There’s something wrong with a system where you work all week, then on the weekend you do “projects” at home.  Last I knew, projects were work; they get in the way of what’s supposed to be happening on weekends, namely, fun outdoors!

My whining, in this particular case, comes from spending most of a day putting knobs on cabinets in our kitchen. REPLACING knobs is easy; unscrew old one, put new one on, smile at how pretty it all looks. But putting them on in the first place includes taking the fronts off the drawers, measuring and marking, drilling holes, installing the knobs, and putting the whole mess back together again. Tedious. By 1:00 when I finished, there was no time left to get out and ski. Or was there?

Shawnee Peak, less than an hour from my home, has a mid-day pass. And, unlike the typical 12:30-4:00 pass, theirs goes from 12:30-closing, which means it includes night skiing. With a night skiing pass going for $30 and the mid-day going for only $16 more, it was worth it to get up there and hit the slopes at 2pm, rather than waiting for night skiing to start.

Oh, I forgot; a storm was predicted to start in the evening, dumping up to 8 inches of snow on us. Great for the next day’s skiing, lousy to drive home in. Yet another reason to get there as quickly as possible and get our runs in before the weather forced us to leave!

As afternoon fades to dusk, there's no reason to stop; Shawnee's mid-day pass includes night skiing! (Susan Marean photo)

We arrived a little after 2 to an absolute zoo. The Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge was at Shawnee for the day, and the place was loaded with skiers.  Parking lots were full, but we found someone leaving and grabbed the space. It didn’t look good for decent snow conditions…that many skiers would likely have the mountain skied off, leaving boilerplate as far as the edge could see. But boilerplate’s better than nothing, especially after being stuck indoors doing “projects” all morning.

One thing we noticed immediately: Shawnee’s upgraded their Summit Triple to “Express” status. Translation: they’ve added a moving conveyor belt that you step onto, which gets you moving in the right direction. When the chair then comes flying in to meet your backside, it can be moving faster than if you were standing still. The experience is a bit disconcerting your first time, but slick in action, and shortly we were flying up the mountain.

Funny, though; usually, when it’s scratchy, you can hear skiers and boarders while you’re on the lift. This ride was awfully quiet. Maybe we’d be lucky?

Fresh grooming in the afternoon means great skiing in the evening. (Susan Marean photo)

Lucky we were! Even with the heavy traffic on the slopes all day, the snow was, at worst, firm, not hard. Shawnee had clearly made the most of the storms over the past few weeks. It wasn’t like first tracks, but it also wasn’t the typical skied-off afternoon conditions that makes everyone WANT first tracks.

Susan had been concerned about the conditions, as her kneecap’s healing from a hairline fracture, and falling was not part of her plans. But one run on a green circle made her want to head for the blues, and even to consider the diamonds (fortunately she’s smart enough not to push her luck).

As the light faded, the groomers came out to prepare for night skiing. That’s one of the joys of Shawnee; come 4:00, you CAN get first tracks! Sunset Boulevard  had just been groomed, so we split, her to the freshly groomed blue, me to black, with my goal being to get down fast enough to get an extra run in.

Cooley’s had just been groomed as well, and my run down  was as fast and smooth as it could possibly be. Hero conditions…firm corduroy that held an edge effortlessly. It’s like flying! Then, back into line, up to check out Parmalee’s. The groomers had been on it when I came down before, I arrived at the top  just as they opened it back up.  First tracks! These are the conditions for letting shaped skis do what they are made to do, and my Blizzard Magnum 7.6s live to be laid over on edge and allowed to carve their natural arc in fresh corduroy. They threw me from turn to turn; utter joy! Too soon, I was at the bottom, and Susan was waiting for me. Mission accomplished!

Even in heavy snow, Shawnee's lights made it easy to ski into the evening. (Susan Marean photo)

By now, it was starting to snow seriously. A couple more runs, and there was 3″ of powder near the summit. We rode up the Summit Triple with Connor, a 14-year old snowboarder from Massachusetts who had taken silver in his class at the Vertical Challenge that day; his father had taken bronze, and his sister gold! They have a home nearby so they can ski and ride more often. We were utterly jealous of their short commute. While we were headed for home before the roads turned into a skating rink, Connor was going to play in the powder for a few more hours, then come back in the morning to do it again.

Still, we’d had a ball. Shawnee’s ticket pricing makes an afternoon/evening escape like that possible. Instead of moping at home, we’d actually done something, AND had more fun than we’d dreamed possible when we left the house! Between the natural snow we’d been having and their own snowmaking, Shawnee had created excellent conditions despite the heavy traffic. And, even with the snow coming down hard, night visibility was good with their excellent light system.

Back home (a slow ride; we were glad we’d left when we did!), we relaxed over dinner and enjoyed the feeling of having beaten the “projects”; the kitchen looked great, and we still got our skiing in!

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About David Shedd

David Shedd is a lifelong resident of New England, and has been skiing, kayaking, mountain biking, and trying anything that anyone throws at him for most of his life. A 2001 Maine Mountain Bike Association State Champion, his current goal is to learn to break fewer bones.