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Lake Tahoe's Granlibakken an affordable winter playground for families

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Never heard of Granlibakken? That’s not surprising. Drive too swiftly along scenic Highway 89 on Tahoe’s scenic west shore and it’s easy to overlook the road that heads into this historic Norwegian-like village.

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Occupying 74 beautifully wooded acres in this picturesque mountain valley, Granlibakken is located a half-mile from Tahoe City. It provides a link to the past, a reminder that some ski hills were once small in stature and remain devoid of the sophistication that typifies today’s mega resorts.

Although its hill is extremely modest and barely garners a mention among Lake Tahoe’s many famed ski resorts, for several decades Granlibakken was known as the only winter playground in the entire Lake Tahoe basin.

Granlibakken hosted 1932 Olympic Trials

In 1929, seven-time Norwegian ski jumping champion Lars Haugen designed a ski jump hill at what’s now known as Granlibakken, clearing an area of trees and establishing a 60-meter jump that became known as Olympic Hill.

The hill quickly gained fame and hosted the Olympic Trials and the U.S. Championships in 1932.

Granlibakken was the first official ski resort in the Tahoe basin, where two years later in 1949, Squaw Valley had its modest beginnings.

Great place for snow play

Today, Granlibakken still sports a ski hill, but it’s more suited for snow play than skiing or snowboarding. A lone tow rope carries people to the top of a small hill for the quick downhill trek. On the opposite side of the ski slope, a sledding area receives much more attention.

“Granlibakken is really a family-friendly place,” said Heather Himmelmann, who has visited Granlibakken several times with her husband and young daughter. “It’s a great beginner hill for my daughter. She’s taken lessons here and keeps making good progress each year. The price is right and we really enjoy our stay.”

Family-friendly prices

More serious skiers and riders use Granlibakken for a convenient lodging location they can book for a bargain price. An interchangeable lift ticket costs $150 per person and provides lodging at Granlibakken and extremely generous buffet breakfast, plus choice of a lift ticket at Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Northstar, Heavenly, Mt. Rose or Sugar Bowl.

A Homewood Package is $113 per person and includes lodging, breakfast, and shuttle to Homewood.

While serving as a serene, isolated place for families to vacation, Granlibakken is an even bigger lure as a conference destination. With more than 200 rooms and conference space for an estimated 500 people,

Granlibakken year-round destination

Granlibakken hosts numerous groups year round, ranging from ski clubs to international academic organizations that seek a secluded getaway in an inspiring area.

“In the winter we’re in the ski business, but we’re in the conference business all year round,” notes Kay Williams, Granlibakken’s resort manager. “We’re not a Holiday Inn. You get treated to a real experience here. Granlibakken is a beautiful location and we treat you like a member of the family.”

Granlibakken guests can ski and sled all day for $15. The outdoor heated pool and hot tub-sauna area are open year round. The popular Pub restaurant will open Dec. 20 for the season. Both the Pub and the Cedar Creek restaurant are open weekends and holidays.

Treetop Adventure Park

The Treetop Adventure Park course is situated on the Granlibakken property and participants climb to an initial starting point on a tree platform, then travel through the forest on an aerial trek anywhere from 15 to 50 feet in the air.

The park is comprised of a series of courses, linking tree platform to tree platform with a variety of bridges and zip lines. Ages 5-and-above are eligible to experience the Adventure Park.

Cost is $28 for children 5-12 and $45 for ages 13-above. There are two daily sessions that last approximately 2½ hours; times are 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and 1-3:30 p.m. Reservations are recommended.

Visiting Granlibakken has become tradition for Bonnie Zweben of El Cerrito, who was married at this picturesque mountain valley in 2004. Last February she was enjoying a snow weekend with her two children – Taylor, 6, and Brady, 4, and friends from San Francisco.

“The kids really enjoy all the things you can do at Granlibakken” Zweben said. “The price here is reasonable, more than at other places. We have a kitchen in our room, bring groceries, and once we arrive we never have to leave the property. This is a great place to vacation both winter and summer.”

For more information on Granlibakken, visit www.granlibakken.comor call 800 543-3221.

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