Families flock to Shawnee Mountain, the closest Pennsylvania ski resort to New York City.
Aerial view of Shawnee Mountain (photo credit: Ski Shawnee)
Shawnee Mountain is a small ski area located in the Pocono Mountains of eastern Pennsylvania. The ski area is within an easy day’s drive for all of the Philadelphia and New York City metropolitan areas and is popular with families. When driving I-80 from New York City, it is also the first Pocono ski resort a day tripper will reach, making it an easy choice for a quick turnoff just after crossing the Delaware Water Gap from New Jersey. Moreover, many families prefer the more low key atmosphere and smaller crowds when compared to neighboring resorts like Camelback.
The skiing at Shawnee is on 700 vertical feet and 23 trails. Both day and night skiing are available. The trails are well-suited for families as there frankly nothing steep enough to scare a strong intermediate skier. One of the resort’s strongest points is that there is very little runout. The vertical may be short, but at least it’s consistently pitched all the way to the base.
Although Shawnee claims 23 trails, the resort has adopted the unfortunate and all-too-common practice of individually naming every segment of every run. In reality, there are about 13 separate runs – enough to keep a skier interested for a day, but not much more.
The recent addition of a new express quad has proved to be a game-changer. Gone are the long rides up fixed grip chairs for quick descents. The new “Tomahawk Express” is located in the center of the ski area and provides access to 20 of Shawnee’s 23 slopes and trails. This new lift cut the ride time from 7 minutes to a staggeringly quick 3 minutes. On uncrowded days there are few places to make faster laps.
Shawnee has another feature that is popular with intermediate skiers and families. The steepest trails are all located on the lower half of the mountain, which means that all skiers can ski from the summit. In addition to the main face of the mountain accessible from the Tomahawk Express, there is a small shoulder of the hill serviced by a the “F Lift” double chair, where skiers will find Shawnee’s terrain park.
Shawnee is a great place to learn to ski. First time skiers start on the Little Chief run set off to the side of the resort. Serviced by its own double chair and two magic carpets, Little Chief is gentle nursery slope that allows beginners to pick up the sport without the intimidation that can come from better skiers whizzing through the learning area.
More confident beginners progress directly to the summit where there are two options. The longest run on the hill at nearly a mile is to the skier’s right after unloading the Tomahawk Express. Although the top section is marked as blue (Country Club) strong beginners will have little difficulty with the run provided they are comfortable avoiding the terrain park features on the side. Continuing across the face of the hill the trail name changes several times (Pocohantas -> Indian Queen -> Lower Minisink/Lower Pennsylvania), but the gentle green run is a big hit with beginners.
The other green trail option for beginners at Shawnee is a top-to-bottom cruise on Upper and Lower Pennsylvania. This wide, gentle slope provides a great place to work on technique.
Intermediates will find that Shawnee is perfectly suited to them. There’s plenty to explore and progressing onto the black diamond runs at the bottom of the upper mountain green and blue trails is definitely possible for improving intermediates.
The blue trails at Shawnee also happen to be the most interesting runs on the mountain. The combination of Country Club to Lower Delware forms the skier’s righthand boundary of the resort and is an enjoyable blue cruiser. Kittatinny, located in a narrow notch between the dual “D/E Lifts” and “F Lift” is our favorite blue trail on the hill. Accessible from any of the lifts on the mountain, it’s an often-overlooked run because it is the only blue on the skier’s left side of the hill and is usually uncrowded.
There are six black diamond trails at Shawnee. Four of the six form the steeper, lower halves of upper mountain trails bisected by a green crossing trail. The black runs at Shawnee are of average difficulty for the Poconos, but would be considered skiable by strong intermediates accustomed to skiing in Vermont.
The remaining two trails are the most interesting. Chief Thunder Cloud is a short mogul slope near the base lodge that provides the only bump run on the mountain. Near the summit, skiers will find the only upper mountain black diamond – Renegade. A narrow, short headwall, Renegade is over practically as soon as a skier points his skis down the fall-line, but it is a fun legitimately steep run that is by far the most interesting black diamond of what is an otherwise unremarkable set of open black slopes. Moreover, by skiing Renegade, an expert skier can ski top to bottom black diamond runs by jumping onto one of the other four black diamonds below the trail’s exit. Only Lower Arrowhead is not lappable in combination with Renegade.
Shawnee has several on mountain eateries. There are two cafeterias in the base lodge as well as Hickory Licks family restaurant offering waitress service. On weekends, the Black Diamond bar also serves lunch and microbrews from the Shawnee Craft Brewery.
Shawnee is primarily a day ski area and as such does not have a base village. Skiers will find ample day lodge services, but no slopeside hotels or condos.
Shawnee does not have any on-site lodging for the general public. It does, however, have a dormitory located in its Summit Lodge which is available for rent by large groups. The minimum number of guests to rent the lodge is 35 and the facility can accomodate up to 55. Located near the top of the Tomahawk Express, Shawnee describes the property as the only ski-in, ski-out group lodging property in the Poconos. It is tremendously popular with church and scout groups. Weekends are booked well in advance.
Off site, there are a few options available within a short drive of the resort. The best of these options is the four-star Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort. Famous in summer for its A.W. Tillinghast designed golf course on an island in the middle of the Delaware River, the resort is quieter in the winter and rates reflect this. The Inn is a grand old hotel on the banks of the Delaware River and evokes a unique turn of the century charm.
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There are also a number of condos available at the Wyndham Vacation Resort Shawnee Village approximately 2.5 miles from the resort. Condos here are generally three star in quality.
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In addition to its 23 trails, Shawnee offers a large snow tubing park. The Pocono Plunge Snow Tubing Park offers 6 separate chutes serviced by 2 lifts. Single and Two-man tandem snow tubes are available.
Shawnee Mountain is located just across the Delaware Water Gap from New Jersey. It is just 5 miles off Exit 310 of I-80 in Pennsylvania. The roads to the resort are relatively flat and 4WD is not required in all but the most severe storms.
Driving Distance / Approximate Drive Time
New York, NY – 77 mi / 1 hour 30 minutes
Philadelphia, PA – 107 mi / 2 hours
Baltimore, MD – 190 mi / 3 hour 10 minutes
Top: 1,350 ft
Bottom: 650 ft
Vertical: 700 ft
Skiable Area: 125 ac
Annual Snowfall: 50 in
Lifts: 10 (1 express quad)
+ Within an easy day’s drive of New York City and Philadelphia
+ no slopeside lodging
+ new high speed goes base-to-summit in only 3 minutes
– can be crowded at peak times
– limited natural snowfall
Updated for Winter 2015-2016 – David B. Cronheim