Located on the northern end of Pleasant Mountain, Shawnee Peak is the oldest major ski area in Maine.
Early Skiing on Pleasant Mountain
Shawnee Peak's skiing history dates back to 1935, when multiple groups started developing a winter recreation area on the northern slopes of Pleasant Mountain. The Bridgton Lions Club, Bridgton Chamber of Commerce, Bridgton Academy, Portland Ski Club, and Bridgton Civilian Conservation Corps joined together to construct the Wayshego Trail. Laid out by Max Wheildon, Bud Dow, and Clarence Kneeland, the 1.5 mile trail was only the start of what was to come.
In 1937, Bridgton selectmen obtained a Works Progress Administration grant for further development of the ski area. A team of 40 started work, eventually growing to 125. On January 23, 1938, a 1,100 foot rope tow opened, serving lower mountain slopes. The Wayshego Trail was also widened and smoothed for that winter. Other attractions included a ski jump, and cross country skiing. By the time the 1938-39 season rolled around, some $20,000 had been invested in the project.
Likely following the WPA improvements, the Mt. Pleasant Ski Club took charge of improvements. For the 1940-41 season a 300 foot rope tow was added for beginners. Also around this time, the town of Bridgton purchased the land on which the ski area was located. The land was then leased to the Bridgton Chamber of Commerce. Soon thereafter, a group including Russ Haggett formed Pleasant Mountain Corporation and purchased the ski area.
Following World War II, Russ Haggett became general manager of the ski area. Meanwhile, the Wayshego Trail was renamed Jack Spratt in honor of Pleasant Mountain's second manager.
Many Firsts at Pleasant Mountain
The mid 1950s brought significant changes to Pleasant Mountain. Maine's first T-Bar was installed at Pleasant for 1953-54. At about 2,000 in length, the lift served the lower slopes of the ski area.
Around this time, Ray Erickson joined Russ Haggett as owner of the ski area. For 1955-56, Maine's second chairlift was installed at Pleasant Mountain. Later known as "Old Blue," the 4,300 foot double chairlift climbed to the top of the north peak of the mountain.
Good times continued at the mountain. Snowfall was so abundant in 1957-58 that the area was able to operate for 118 days.
For the 1960-61 season, a short Doppelmayr T-Bar was installed, serving a newly cleared five acre novice slope in the vicinity of the present day Rabbit Run. The base lodge was also expanded.
For the 1961-62 season, a "3000-foot slope cut 300 feet wide" was added. Named the East Slope, the new terrain was augmented by a new T-Bar in 1962-63. Improvements were made to the base lodge in 1963, 1964, and 1965.
The Pine double chairlift was installed for the 1969-70 season, providing modern lift access to the lower slopes on the main mountain. Due to related congestion, the novice T-Bar was relocated for the 1970-71 season. The new area was located across the street from the ski area and featured a vertical drop of about 60 feet.
The East Area Debuts
The Pleasant Mountain East Area opened for the 1972-73 season. Serviced by a double chairlift, the new complex featured intermediate and expert terrain, as well as a new base area.
After running Pleasant Mountain for three decades, General Manager Russ Haggett retired prior to the 1975-76 season.
Freestyle skiing became increasingly popular at Pleasant Mountain during the 1970s. In 1978-79, four of the ten United States qualifiers at the North American championships came from Pleasant Mountain.
Pleasant Mountain in the 1960s
While Pleasant Mountain had been at the top of the state's ski industry for its first few decades, it found itself lagging behind the pack as the 1980s started. Lacking snowmaking, the ski area operated only a few dozen days in 1980-81.
Two hedges against bad winters were made in 1982, when an alpine slide opened for summer operations and lower mountain snowmaking for winter.
A Labor Day weekend 1983 fire at Pleasant Mountain's base lodge threatened to set the ski area back, however hard work resulted in the ski area opening that December. Top to bottom snowmaking debuted that winter.
Following the 1983-84 season, "Old Blue" was removed and replaced with a new Riblet triple chairlift.
$600,000 was invested in the snowmaking system for 1985-85 season. Amongst the improvements was a new pipeline from Moose Pond, providing significant water to the operation. Snowmaking was expanded to the East Side for 1987-88.
Pleasant Mountain Becomes Shawnee Peak
Following the 1987-88 season, the owners of Pleasant Mountain found themselves in financial trouble. That off season, they sold the ski area to Shawnee Mountain Corp. for $1.4 million. Pleasant Mountain was subsequently renamed to "Shawnee Peak," the name of the owners' Pennsylvania ski area.
For its debut season as Shawnee Peak, major changes were made to the ski area. A new Borvig double chairlift was installed near the original location of the novice T-Bar. Snowmaking was further expanded, while base area facilities were improved. Finally, night skiing was added on the lower mountain.
Pleasant Mountain in the 1970s
Night skiing was expanded to the summit for the 1989-90 season, giving Shawnee Peak the most lit terrain in New England. The 121 day season ended up setting records for length of season and number of skier visits.
Chet Homer Buys Shawnee Peak
Circa 1992, the parent company decided to divest its skiing holdings, resulting in banks taking control of Shawnee Peak. After a couple of season on the bubble, Shawnee Peak was purchased by Tom's of Maine executive Chet Homer in September of 1994. Though Homer considered restoring the ski area's original name, he opted to keep the Shawnee Peak identity due to the brand that had been established.
After making under the hood improvements, Homer made a splash in 1997 when $1.2 million was invested in Shawnee Peak. In addition to a new beginner lift, two chairlifts were upgraded. The East Area's double chairlift was converted into a triple while the Pine Double was replaced with a new CTEC Quad chairlift.
For the 2010-11 season, the aging summit Riblet triple was replaced with a rebuilt CTEC triple, purchased from Loon, NH. The new lift was complemented with a conveyor loading system, allowing it to run faster than its predecessor.