48 Hours in Bridgton
In the heart of the Lakes Region lies Bridgton, with its quintessential Main Street and the longest continuously run ski area in Maine, all about an hour’s drive from Portland.
Shopping in Bridgton
We kick off our arrival with a late lunch at the Black Horse Tavern, an equestrian-themed pub on the edge of town. I adore my crock of gratinéed French onion soup and caprese chicken sandwich with fresh mozzarella and tomato, and my husband, Hugh (a burger aficionado), declares his peppercorn-crusted burger with bacon and gorgonzola among the best he’s had in Maine.
Bridgton’s Main Street is home to a swath of lovely shops, restaurants, and inns. With our two young daughters in tow, we stroll through the downtown and stop at the independent Bridgton Books to browse and buy from the large section of children’s books by Maine authors. We visit the charming Corn Shop Trading Company, which has a grand old room full of assorted gifts, crafts, and antiquities. Farther up the block we discover a warmly intriguing and wonderfully eclectic shop, J. Decor, located in a historic apothecary. Self-described as “purveyors of fine furnishings, wine, interior design, decor, and gifts,” it’s a beautifully curated store with a broad range of alluring products and a superb wine selection run by the affable Julie and Rick Whelchel. Before our short drive to Shawnee Peak, we fuel up the kids with delicious dark purple superfood smoothies and homemade doughnuts and grab coffees for ourselves from Nectar, a wellness shop with plant-based offerings, including local CBD and hemp products.
A night atop Shawnee Peak
We fit in a few late-afternoon runs at Shawnee Peak before eating dinner and heading to our lodging destination for the night: a small cabin on top of the ski mountain.
After getting appetizers (including wicked good nachos) at Blizzard’s Pub on the top floor of Shawnee Peak’s Base Lodge, we haul our backpacks up the Summit Triple lift. Once we’re off the lift, it’s just a 250-yard ski run down the Sunset Boulevard trail to Tuckerman’s Cabin. The ski resort rents this cabin and a separate yurt as an adventurous yet comfortable way to experience Shawnee Peak. The cabin is a cozy one-room cottage with a woodstove, enough bunkbeds to sleep six, and views of the surrounding lakes and mountains.
Our kids are excited beyond words when we tell them they can join the driver of a snowcat machine to groom some trails after dark. The giant, shiny snowcat picks us up outside the cabin, and we spend an exhilarating hour treading up and down various trails in the pitch-black night while the driver tells us tales of encounters with wild animals and other creatures of the night. Back in the cabin, we make quesadillas and soup over our bottletop propane camp stove (and Jiffy Pop on the woodstove).
One of the benefits of staying in the cabin or nearby yurt is the ability to be the first to ski or board down in the morning. After camp-stove coffee and hot chocolate, we venture out and take first tracks on a clear, cold, beautiful day. We ski the whole morning and stop for snacks at Shawnee Peak’s East Lodge at the bottom of the Sunnyside Triple lift.
Provisions and more skiing
With 40 trails and nearly 250 acres of skiing area at Shawnee Peak, there is plenty of mountain to explore. Once we start getting hungry, we ski our way back to the main lodge for wood-fired pizza, burgers, and chili at Blizzard’s Pub. We ski the rest of the afternoon before transferring our gear from the cabin to the Northridge Yurt for another night on the mountain.
S’mores and sleeping in a yurt
The Northridge Yurt sleeps four in two bunkbeds and feels spacious, with its round shape and high ceiling. We cook dinner and play cards by candlelight (there’s no electricity in the yurt or the cabin) and warm our ski boots and gloves by the woodstove. We also set a roaring fire in the big fire pit in front of the yurt and make s’mores. We later read books in our bunks with flashlights. The whole experience is rustic and fun.
Fresh snow and mountainside lunch
Several inches of snow fell while we slept, making this morning’s fresh tracks all the sweeter. After an obligatory stop at the Donut Shack just below the Pine Quad lift, we explore the rest of the mountain all morning. Then we clear out the yurt, don our backpacks, and ski a final run to the main lodge. Another delicious lunch from Blizzard’s Pub includes a memorable Bloody Mary adorned with celery, shrimp, and lemon. It’s the perfect farewell to a fun family ski weekend in Bridgton.