Sledding at historic Granlibakken

Becket Norbutas, left, and Anikin Allen liked holding hands while going down the sled hill. | Cindi Sparks

Nestled in a forested valley in Tahoe City, Granlibakken is a great destination for winter fun with the family. Even though it is less than a mile from downtown Tahoe City, Granlibakken feels like a private mountain retreat. It is secluded, scenic and serene.

The trees loom high over the property, which is rich in history. Granlibakken was originally part of the historic Tahoe Tavern property and was first used in the early 20th Century by extreme tobogganers who would divert water from a nearby spring to create an icy surface for fast sliding. In the 1920s, it became known as Olympic Hill, which became a premier location for ski jumpers from around the world to come and hone their skills and break records.

Fast forward to today and you will still find Olympic Hill bustling with skiers, snowboarders and sliders. On one beautiful, sunny day, me, my son, Anikin, and our friends, Beckett and Emerson Norbutas, their mom, Cindi Sparks, and Gage Goosen spent the afternoon on the sled hill. When we arrived we first stopped at Rusty’s Café to grab a bite to eat. Featuring delicious Mexican fare, Rusty’s Café is housed a cozy, rustic cabin originally built in 1947. It offers the perfect spot for a snack break or to warm up with a hot chocolate or spiced cider.

After fueling up, we got our tickets and helmets at the ticket counter inside the Café and headed to the sled hill. At the bottom of the hill, we grabbed our saucers and started the hike up to the top. After a steep, but short walk we made it to the top where there is a ledge for staging. We sat down on our saucers and took off. The sled hill is fast and exhilarating and took a little courage to push myself off the first time.

Beckett Norbutas enjoys a fast ride down the sled hill. | Katherine E. Hill

After a few laps, we discovered the left side of the hill was the fastest ride. The older boys, Emerson and Gage, were trying to go as fast as they could, sometimes even running and jumping onto their sleds and speeding off down the hill, trying their best to slide for as fast and as long as they could. Meanwhile, Anikin and Beckett were a little more cautious. They waited until the sled hill was clear before they would go. Sometimes they held hands or held onto each other’s sleds as they slid down the hill together. Cindi and I took quite a few laps, but after a while, the boys were making such fast laps, we hung out slope side and took pictures and videos. As we stood there, I noticed a young girl (maybe 3) hiking up the hill with purpose then sitting on her own sled and flying down the hill. I marveled at how fearless she seemed. Maybe some ski jumping is in her future?

The kids continuously made laps as the sun fell behind the ridgeline above us and the cold temperatures set in. The friendly mountain staff started breaking down as we approached the sled hill closing time of 4:30 p.m. They were courteous and allowed the kids to continue sledding while they finished up.

We thanked them as we headed to Rusty’s Café for hot drinks. The kids enjoyed hot chocolate with hot spiced wine for me and Cindi. It was a great day and after enjoying the sun, the snow and the beauty of the resort we left tired but with big smiles on our faces. However, I didn’t anticipate how sore I would be the next day. Just a reminder of how easy it is to feel young at heart simply by sitting on a sled and speeding down a hill. Those early tobogganers definitely had the right idea.

Granlibakken is not only a great sledding, skiing and snowboarding destination, but also offers terrain for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, and the Treetop Adventure park featuring rope systems and zip lines for ages 5 and older.

In addition, Granlibakken offers lodging and conference facilities, a Day Spa, onsite yoga classes, and the Cedar House Pub in the Main Lodge. Open nightly Thursday through Sunday and daily during holidays, Cedar House offers fireside dining, delicious food and a full bar (look for the coupon in this edition of Tahoe Weekly).

Although it is a wonderland for winter sports, it can also be an all-inclusive reprieve from the daily grind. Spend some time at Granlibakken and discover the charm and beauty of a quintessential Tahoe ski resort. | granlibakken.com