Granlibakken is a Norwegian name meaning a hill sheltered by trees. Granlibakken Resort is family-owned, occupying 74 wooded acres in a picturesque mountain valley. Spectacular Lake Tahoe is just minutes away. Granlibakken Resort is at an elevation of 6,350 feet. Friendly but shy bears and other wildlife can be spotted on occasion.
Townhome and suite accommodations afford plenty of privacy in a tranquil and relaxing Lake Tahoe hideaway. For business, our complete conference center welcomes groups of 10 to 350. For pleasure, a full menu of Lake Tahoe's outdoor recreation and indoor entertainment is available either at the resort or minutes away. The hospitality is European and the lifestyle is Lake Tahoe.
Speaking of lifestyle, our appreciation for Lake Tahoe also means a commitment to protect and preserve its environment. Please visit our Greenlibakken page to learn more.
1932 Olympic Hill above Granlibakken Ski Area
1928 Double Tobaggan Slide at Granlibakken, built under the supervision of George Bliss
1936 Wayne Poulsen jumping on Olympic Hill at Granlibakken
The History of Granlibakken
Skiing at Olympic Hill: The Story of "a hillside sheltered by fir trees"
By Robert Frohlich
Today's Granlibakken Resort, on Tahoe's west shore, is the site of a ski area whose history goes back to the heyday of Tahoe Tavern.
These days, Granlibakken resort, located half a mile from Tahoe City along Lake Tahoe's west shore, prides itself on being one of Tahoe's better vacation complexes, hosting everything from local Rotary meetings to international science seminars. To many, though, its importance lies not in its conference halls but in its small ski jumping area, once called Olympic Hill.
The story of skiing at Granlibakken, which in Norwegian means "a hillside sheltered by fir trees", starts at the turn of the century. In 1896, the Steamer Tahoe, which for the next 40 years would transport mail, freight, and passengers from Glenbrook to Tahoe City, was completed. Four years later, the Lake Tahoe Railway and Transportation Company finished its railroad line from Truckee to Tahoe City.
During this period, the rustically elegant, 223-room Tahoe Tavern was built. Commercially operated skiing and snowplay had come to Truckee as early as 1893, but not until 1928 was the Tavern kept open all winter. The hotel, already a center of Tahoe's social life, began offering winter fun to its guests who arrived by way the "Snow Ball Special" train from Truckee. Tahoe Tavern's garage was turned into an ice rink, and a toboggan site was established at a site above today's Tahoe City Golf Course. Soon, though, activities were moved to a more sheltered hill at today's Granlibakken. There, with George Bliss supervising, a double toboggan slide was built.
"This was a special slide built in the snow," writes David Stollery in his Tales of Tahoe, "with water from a nearby spring run down it during the night to freeze and make it especially icy and fast." Horse-drawn sleighs shuttled bundled-up guests, as many as a dozen at a time, to and from what was dubbed "Olympic Hill".
"Snowplay and skiing was a major part of our lives," remembers Bill Bechdoltt, a Tahoe City resident and California State Parks special project director. Bill's family moved to Tahoe City in 1906, and after growing up there, both Bill and his brother, Carl, became competitive ski jumpers. In the 1960s and early '70s, Bill's daughter, Cheryl, became a member of the United States Ski Team and a National Champion.
"You have to remember that in 1928, when I was six years old, there were only 12 families in Tahoe City," Bill says. "There was no school in the wintertime. Our school closed in December and opened in March. So, all winter you had a lot of time. We learned to Nordic ski. All the kids played around on skis. That's how you got anywhere. We would ski in together to the Granlibakken area, but most people would go in by horse and sleigh. The horses were stabled at what is now the Family Tree Restaurant in Tahoe City. The sleighs would meet at the Tavern, and everyone would hop in. It was great fun."
At about this same time, a group of Norwegian skiers were touring the West giving ski jumping exhibitions and, thus, sparking interest in the sport. Besides the famed jumper Alf Engen, the group included seven-time national jumping champion Lars Haugen. The jumpers so impressed Tahoe Tavern directors that they hired Haugen to design a jump hill at the site of Olympic Hill. It took Haugen almost two years and $10,000 to complete it, but for nearly a decade the hill reigned as one of the most popular winter sites on the west coast. The rest of the story.