Shawnee Peak yurt at night
An evening view of the yurt atop Shawnee Peak in Bridgton. It can be reserved for $225 a night. (Courtesy Bridget Shepherd)
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You don’t see a lot of people sliding onto the chairlift at a local ski mountain with a sleeping bag, a sack of clothes, and a pack basket brimming with cheddar soup and the makings for an Old Fashioned. 

But such a sight can occasionally be witnessed at Shawnee Peak in Bridgton. 

There’s a yurt on top of that mountain (a cabin, too). If you’ve skied there, you’ve probably seen it: a red cylindrical dwelling tucked into the trees just off the Sunset Boulevard trail, with a gathering of Adirondack chairs around a fire pit. 

Shawnee Peak yurt
Bridget Shepherd, left, Holly Zschetzsche, and Ian Unger ready for a day of skiing at Shawnee Peak, where you can wake up and hit the trails right from the mountaintop yurt. (Portland Phoenix/Shannon Bryan)

It looks like the rustic homestead of some peaceful mountain steward who might welcome passing skiers around her fire for an evening to regale them with adventures past. 

In fact, that yurt can be your home for a night or two, and it can be your basecamp for present adventures, which you can regale friends with over a future fire. 

The yurt is available to book year-round, but staying there in the winter is particularly unique. To get there, guests ride the chairlift up with their overnight stuff, and they can ski out right from the yurt’s front yard.

It’s an off-the-grid experience – outhouse, no electricity, and just the bare essentials – but with the revelry of a popular ski mountain close at hand. During the day, you’ll hear the chatter of passing skiers. At night, all is quiet after the groomers cruise by. 

Inside Shawnee Peak yurt
Holly Zschetzsche and Bridget Shepherd enjoy snacks in the Shawnee Peak yurt. (Portland Phoenix/Shannon Bryan)

The yurt sleeps four in two bunk beds. There’s a table and chairs, a propane fireplace, a camp stove, and a couple of pans for cooking; you bring the rest. You can also hit Blizzard’s Pub or one of the cafeterias on the mountain.

During our visit in February, a large container of water was provided, along with a couple of camping lanterns. There was firewood, too, but strong winds halted our plans for an evening fire. 

Our group of four had a splendid time skiing all day, retiring to the yurt for hot drinks and grub before heading out again to ski under the lights. We’d packed loads of food and warm layers, which was wise: despite the propane heater, the yurt remained chilly.

Luckily we had cheddar soup, flannel onesies, and a bit of yurt dancing to keep us warm. 

Freelance writer Shannon Bryan lives in South Portland and is the founder of fitmaine.com, where she writes about the coolest ways to be active and get outdoors in Maine.

Shawnee Peak yurt fireplace
Ski boots warming by the fire inside the Shawnee Peak yurt in Bridgton. (Portland Phoenix/Shannon Bryan)

Yurt tips

There’s a propane heater in the Shawnee Peak yurt, but it’s not very effective. During our stay, the temperature in the yurt remained cold enough to see our breath, and the snow from our ski boots never melted. Bring warm layers and a cold-weather sleeping bag. And slippers. I wish I’d brought slippers. Upside: No need to worry about keeping your perishables cold. 

You will bring all your stuff up via the chairlift. I had a stuffed-to-the-gills backpack that felt like it weighed as much as your average 12-year-old. Considering I’m also a middling skier who’s always one false move from a tumble, the idea of disembarking the chairlift while hoisting that backpack from the seat beside me made me nervous.

But the excellent lift operators know what to do. They’ll thoughtfully slow the lift to allow you to heave your bags onto the chair, and they’ll slow it again at the top when you’re disembarking, making sure you’re safely off with all your things. 

The Sunset Boulevard trail is not lit for night skiing, so if you’re arriving after dark, have a headlamp handy to light your way. 

The yurt kitchen is sparse – a camp stove and a couple of pots. Plan to bring cookware, plates, and utensils. 

You will need a lift ticket to ride the chairlift up with your things, so plan accordingly (i.e., make the most of the lift ticket and plan your arrival at a time when you can also enjoy some skiing or riding). 

The nightly yurt rate is $225; find it on Airbnb.

— Shannon Bryan