Date of Trip: January 2008
Shawnee Inn and Golf resort is nestled in the Poconos about an hour and a half north of Philadelphia. Because of its proximity to my home town and “ski and stay package”, which offered hotel stay, lift tickets and ski rentals for one flat rate, my friend and I selected this hotel for a weekend ski trip.
The drive through rural Pennsylvania was mildly scenic. Small mountains rose above the Delaware River and as the altitude changed, my ears started to pop. I felt a tickle in my throat as we drove to our destination and chalked it up to the thin mountain air.
Shawnee Inn is a historic building perched on the side of the Delaware River. We navigated through a large parking lot on the side of the building and had some trouble finding the main entrance door. There was not a soul in sight and the barren lot was only a quarter full of cars. Upon checking in, we asked the receptionist if there was a shuttle from the resort to Shawnee Mountain. We were told that there was no shuttle, although we had read that there was one on the Web site.
Our ski package included a $20 gift card for the Shawnee resort, and we decided to spend it on lunch at the hotel restaurant. We approached the hostess, who blinked, smiled and told us she’ll “see if we have any tables available”. The restaurant was filled with about 50 empty tables, only one of which was occupied by humans eating food. The food came in about half an hour by a nervous, pimply teenage waiter. It was mediocre.
Since it was too early to actually enter our room, I changed into my ski gear in the bathroom and we headed out (in my car) to the mountain. We did not have to pay for parking, but the parking lot was an endless pot-holed wilderness that seemed to stretch for miles. Carrying our ski gear and outfitted in snow pants, puffy coats and thick waterproof gloves, we waddled to the distant mountain base, the mid-day winter sun shining directly in our eyes.
Shawnee Mountain loomed behind a river over which a tiny, depressing water park rested. The water park appeared to be the resort’s way of attracting visitors in the snow-free spring, summer and fall months. The strips of white that cut through the forest of the mountain were dotted with colorful skiers, some moving swiftly towards the base, others stagnant — a foreboding sign of what was to come for my accident-prone companion.
We made our way through the rental lines, picking up gently used skis and sticking our lift tickets to our coat zippers. The ski rental building smelled of sweat and freezer burn.
I decided our best bet was to attack the bunny slope first; my friend had never skied before and I feared for her life. To the left of the bunny slope was a kind of ski lift I’d never before seen — it resembled alarge conveyer belt or treadmill, moved at a speed so slow that the human eye could barely register its locomotion and lurched to a three-minute halt every 30 seconds. A blind and legless animal could have wriggled to the top of the slope in half the time it took a skier on this contraption, but we stepped in line and waited our turn anyway, as I was afraid the larger lifts would frighten my novice friend.
An hour later, we were at the top of the bunny hill. By definition, the bunny hill should be a leisurely and non-threatening. This is not the case on a Saturday at noon. There were so many overturned skiers and crying children strewn about that the bunny hillwas a treacherous venture. Upon reaching the top and teetering unsteadily for a few moments, my friend embarked on a destructive rampage down the hill. Luckily, no skiers were killed and she eventually gained enough control of herself to attempt the larger hills.
Skiing was fun, but Shawnee had a significant amount of ice patches. Thesesneaky patches were partly responsible for my friend’s various injuries at the end of the evening and even I, an expert skier, fell a few times on the slippery parts. There was no thick, soft powder that makes a ski run truly fantastic, but we still enjoyed sailing down the mountain, snow-machine flakes flying in our faces. Night skiing was the best part of the trip — the crowds thinned out and a romantic stillness settled over Shawnee.
We had a few snacks at the ski resort cafeteria. I was bit unsettled by the ski food. Wandering through the buffet, deciding which light-brown fried food to choose, I saw a mid-sized boy picking up various French fry packets and poking his finger around in them, next to a sign that said “IF YOU TOUCH IT YOU TAKE IT”. We ate nachos, French fries and pizza, and my friend sipped from a frozen-solid PowerAde that she shook violently every few seconds.
When about 75 percent of my friend’s legs were covered in bruises, we decided to call it a night. It took us three different tries to find the car; we set out in every possible direction before coming upon the car by default.
Back at Shawnee we checked into our room, which was a small and cold. I was officially sick (the tickle in my throat turned into a nasty cold) and I called the front desk to see if they had cold medicine. A sweet-tempered Mexican bellman brought me some Tylenol cold, and I ate the pills with some room service — mushroom soup and greasy garlic bread with melted cheese.
The next morning, I called the front desk again for some more cold medicine, and reached a churlish receptionist who seemed offended at the thought of anyone bringing medicine to my room. I walked, sniffling, to the gift shop in the lobby and bought it myself. On theway back to my room, the elevator stopped at the second floor and as the doors slid open, a piece of luggage flew into the elevator and slammed on its back wall. A woman burst through the doors, dragging a young girl behind her. The woman was screaming insults at her daughter in a thick Brooklyn accent and hitting her on the arm. A wilted husband followed the pair, his eyes cast to the floor. I froze in discomfort and ran screaming (silently in my head) back to my room when the elevator doors finally opened.
Breakfast was a buffet (included with the package). There were two things wrong with the breakfast: First, the scrambled eggs were powdered; they had the consistency of play food and I felt like I was eating a food prop from a movie set or something with which you would fill a mattress. Secondly, each time we walked away from our table to get more food, condiments or drinks, the waitress would teleport to where we were sitting and remove absolutely everything in sight. A few plates of food were wasted until my friend and I decided to go to the buffet one at a time.
As we drove out of the parking lot, we passed a van with “Shawnee Ski Shuttle” scrawled on the side.