On this January day, the cold air is biting and has driven many folks indoors by early afternoon, where huddling by a fire seems more appealing than being outdoors in the snow.
However, at Granlibakken Resort in Lake Tahoe, the cold weather is being mostly ignored. Several dozen children, their parents and grandparents are having too much fun to let the elements interfere.
The fun includes building snowmen, tossing snowballs, sledding, tubing, skiing and snowboarding at this winter playground, off Highway 89 on Tahoe’s west shore. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and hiking are options as well.
Granlibakken’s ski hill area is a basic one-stop shopping area for winter activity. Ski and snowboard rentals and lessons are available, along with saucers and sleds. The area offers a reasonably priced lunch and beverages, bathrooms and changing areas, outdoor seating tables, and even a warming hut to escape the elements.
Although its hill is modest and barely garners a mention among Lake Tahoe’s many famed ski resorts, for several decades Granlibakken has been known as a great winter playground in the Lake Tahoe basin.
“We’re very appealing to families who are looking for a snow experience, not necessarily a ski experience,” said Kay Williams, Granlibakken resort manager. “We’re not in competition with resorts like Squaw and Northstar. We are a much more affordable proposition.”
The costs of a winter vacation in the Lake Tahoe region can be daunting financially for many families, some of whom simply make the choice to remain home.
A family of four that is lodging at Granlibakken, with kids 12 and under, can ski, snowboard and sled all day for a combined $38. For anyone not staying at Granlibakken, the full day rate is $24 for an adult and $14 for children 12 and under.
Room rates at Granlibakken begin at $156 a night on weekends and holidays ($150 weekdays), and include an elaborate breakfast with numerous choices that even the pickiest eater can enjoy.
Lodging also includes 50 percent off sledding and a lift ticket. Many of the rooms include a kitchen, fireplace and dining area. Residents also can use the heated pool and hot tub.
Visiting Granlibakken has become tradition for Bonnie Zweben of El Cerrito, who was married at this picturesque mountain valley in 2004. On this particular stay, she is 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,” said Zweben, whose Air Force husband Seth was serving in Afghanistan. “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.”
Granlibakken is located a half-mile from Tahoe City and occupies 74 beautifully wooded acres in this picturesque mountain valley.
Although the ski hill is a great beginner area, more experienced skiers and snowboarders prefer lodging at Granlibakken and taking a community shuttle bus on weekends to nearby resorts like Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows and Homewood Mountain Resort, all within a 20-minute drive.
Chris and Heather Himmelmann of Sacramento enjoyed Granlibakken for its friendly, laid-back atmosphere.
“Granlibakken is really a family-friendly place,” Heather said. “It’s a great beginner hill for (their daughter) Grace. She’s taken lessons here and keeps making good progress each year. The price is right and we really enjoy our stay.”
This winter, Granlibakken has added one more activity. 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 composed of a series of courses linking tree platform-to-tree platform with a variety of bridges and zip lines. Children ages 5 and older are eligible to experience the Adventure Park.
“The Treetop Adventure Park is based on a European model. There are a lot of these Adventure Parks in Europe and maybe 20 on the East Coast right now,” said Jesse Desens, who owns and operates the North Tahoe Adventures. “But there are only three aerial parks that are west of the Rockies, and this is the first one in California.”
Cost is $28 for children 5-12 and $45 for ages 13 and older. There are two daily sessions that last approximately 2½ hours. Times are 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 1 to 3:30 p.m. Reservations are recommended.
Lodging at Granlibakken includes lodge rooms, studios, one- to three-bedroom townhouses with a loft, suites, executive bedrooms, and a chalet with eight bedrooms and 10 bathrooms. The Cedar Creek restaurant is open Friday and Saturday evenings, plus holidays.
For more information on Granlibakken, visit www.granlibakken.com or call 877 552-6325.
— Jeffrey Weidel can be reached at [email protected] Visit his winter website at http://www.examiner.com/skiing-in-san-francisco/jeffrey-weidel