Escaping to the Mountains Amidst a Pandemic

     Nestled in the heart of Maine’s Lakes and Mountain region is Pleasant Mountain. The ski resort first opened its slopes to visitors in 1938, having only a 1,100-foot tow rope that served lower parts of the mountain’s slopes. By the mid 1950s, Pleasant Mountain installed Maine’s first T-Bar as well as the state’s second chairlift. The 4,300-foot double chairlift brought skiers from near and far to the top of the north peak of the mountain, overlooking Bridgton’s Moose Pond. By the late 1980s, new ownership of the mountain brought changes. Of the many improvements to the slopes, lifts and facilities, the owners also renamed Pleasant Mountain to Shawnee Peak. 

View of Shawnee Peak from Route 302 in Bridgton.

     Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Shawnee has worked diligently to meet and comply with CDC recommendations, as well as orders per Maine’s Governor Janet Mills, in order to ensure visitors’ safety. Sam Fleck has worked at Shawnee Peak for three years as a barback, working closely with the bartender. “Shawnee Peak has taken many precautions for the pandemic to keep both the customers and employees safe,” he said. “The amount of people inside has been limited and only a certain amount of people are allowed in a room at a time.”

     Fleck shared several other changes Shawnee has made, including more food options offered outside and the Blizzards Pub deck being renovated to provide covered seating, complete with heaters. Bethany MacKay, 45, observed these changes on her recent trip to the mountain. “They’re really trying hard to make it accessible in a safe way. I do hope that they follow through and continue that,” she said. “Having that outdoor space makes it a lot easier and it’s nice. People can gather within their own group and there’s still plenty of space.” 

     The mountain’s central location makes it a hub for school ski teams and families not looking to drive too far for a day of skiing. Maya Vanhise, 14, started skiing when she was in third grade. Vanhise enjoys Shawnee for both its size and its friendly atmosphere. Vanhise feels the changes made have had a minimal impact on the overall atmosphere. “I feel like things are pretty similar,” she said. “Like, people are pretty nice just because we’re all going through the same thing.”