Pros: SkiWee and Day Care Program, good snowmaking, great trails for a small mountain, perfect for families
Cons: low vertical, little natural snow, can get crowded
Shawnee Mountain was my home mountain from the ages of 3-18. My sister and I started in their SkiWee program and ended up teaching the little tykes ourselves in high school and college. For a while it was actually the only mountain we knew, but for a mountain its size (let's be honest: it's a hill), it did not disappoint.
The employees at Shawnee are, for the most part, top-notch. The majority come from the nearby towns of Stroudsburg, or East Stroudsburg, PA, with a few weekenders coming in from Philly (like us) or NYC. Shawnee's SkiWee program is an all-day lesson for the kids, including lunch and snack. I was quite addicted to the chicken noodle, the cookies, and the hot cocoa when I was growing up, but the instructors were definitely the best part about SkiWee. Dedicated to skiing and great with kids, rare was the day that we did not have a good time with our instructors. The program was definitely a great way to grow up with skiing and learning to love it.
Shawnee has two base lodges, Trepp and Hope Lodge, that connect to one another, as well as a summit lodge that can be rented out by groups for overnight stays. Both have good food, and are not too pricey, considering ski resort prices. The base lodges are spacious, complete with fireplaces, wood furniture in areas, and plenty of room for brown-baggers. The summit lodge, while not as spacious, is a great place to warm up on cold days, and has a cozy, classic wooden barn-type design.
The mountain trails are well-designed for the available terrain, and offer up some decent slopes for all levels. Speed freaks will no doubt find the mountain lacking in vertical and thus trail length, but that goes for every mountain in the Poconos. Shawnee can tend to get crowded, due to its proximity to both Philadelphia and New York City, but the mountain itself is actually pretty well spread out. When open, the F Double that services Bushkill, Bennekill, and Kittatinny is usually less crowded, and this is where NASTAR sets up, so it's a nice run. Arrowhead, Tomahawk, and Delaware, serviced by the B Triple, are also good runs to hit. Though Tecumseh and Chief Thundercloud (or Chief Thunderchicken as we used to call it in SkiWee) can also be fun runs for more advanced skiers, keep in mind that you'll have to check your speed really quickly as they open out into the Greenhouse Slope, a slow-skiing zone where all the full-length easier trails merge.
As for terrain parks, I haven't gotten a chance to scope out the new park on the western side (top of Bushkill), but the "Incubator" park on the eastern side at the top of Delaware has been redesigned for beginners, while the Bushkill park is for advanced freeskiers and boarders. According to this, it looks like the Bushkill park is fully stocked.
For beginners, there are enough full-length options to challenge their new-found skills, and Shawnee just added a few Magic Carpet lifts at the bunny slopes. The adult instructors are just as good and dedicated as the SkiWee instructors are, but just in case (horror of horrors!) you're a little tired of skiing or snowboarding, five lanes of snowtubing have been set up by the bunny slopes.
Shawnee also owns and operates a large inn with full facilities (golf course, pool, sauna, etc), and has extensively developed multiple time-share "villages" in the nearby town, Shawnee-On-Delaware. These time-shares are great for families or groups, able to sleep 8-10 people and often come with screened porches, full kitchens, jacuzzi tubs, cable TV, and more. Anyone living in the time-share villages has access to the newly renovated recreational center which has a library, video room, Olympic-sized pool, fitness room, Jacuzzi, basketball and volleyball court, etc.
For its proximity to major metropolitan areas, family-friendly area housing, and on-mountain amenities, Shawnee is definitely a great deal in the Poconos. Though there may not be that much to do in town for non-locals, that fact keeps most of the rowdy crowds at Blue or Camelback. To be sure, Shawnee does get its fair share of crowds, but seems to manage them rather well. If you're stuck with the Poconos as the closest range to you, try starting at Shawnee with your family and then possibly moving to Elk or Snö, which have some more challenging terrain. Camelback and Blue are good too, but can get a little "mall"-ish, as they're the closest by a few miles to the major cities.