This blog is part of a series that looks back on skiing at Granlibakken Tahoe through the years, commemorating 95 years of winter fun at Granlibakken, which has been used as a winter recreation area since 1922. These blogs are based on interviews with people who have memories of skiing at Granlibakken. 

Do you have memories about Granlibakken Tahoe? We would love to hear them, you can share your memories by commenting below.

Here are links to other blogs that may interest you: 

Read: Learning to Ski with Rusty at Granlibakken Tahoe

Read: Granlibakken: The West Shore's Playground

Read: Olympic History at Granlibakken Tahoe

Article written by Marion Tobey Rustad, Rusty's wife, for publicity purposes in 1949

Lake Tahoe History

Rusty's wife, Marion, and her daughter Binth on Rusty's sailboat on Lake Tahoe.

Ceramists, painters, seamstresses, and woodcarvers have something tangible to sell when they decide to amok their hobbies pay.  But Kjell Rustad didn’t.  His hobbies are sailing and skiing and when he decided to make is living our of them he had to carve out his own career with no precedent to follow and no handbooks to guide him.

Even if he couldn’t count on handbooks he could count on two excellent qualities of his own--a wonderful personality and perseverance.

Today Rustad, better known as Rusty, owns and operates a ski hill

one mile from Tahoe City, California, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  When the skiing season ends he turns to his second love, sailing on Lake Tahoe.  Since he was born and raised in Norway, these two sports are second nature to him.  All he had to do to pursue them in this country was select an area with good snow conditions and a body of water to sail on.  He chose Lake Tahoe.

“This is so much like Oslo,” Rusty grins.  “Warm summer days with

Lake Tahoe History

The ski hut built by Rusty.

cool nights and seventy nautical miles to sail.  And in the winter you have wonderful snow conditions.”

The Rustads have learned to love Tahoe not only because of its beauty but because it is an inland body of water with no currents, no barnacles to cling to the boat, and steady wind almost every summer afternoon.  Rusty’s log for the summer of 1948 showed only five days of absolute calm and twelve days with no wind in the morning.

No one could give this information to Rusty when he first came to Tahoe.  When he inquired about sailing conditions the old timers shook their heads gloomily.

“It can’t be done,” they said.  “The wind comes from every direction at once or we have no wind at all.  The lake is treacherous and no one sails it.”  Indeed, Rusty could look out over the lake and see for himself there were no white sails etched against the cobalt blue waters.  Motorboats sped along close to shore, but where were the sailors?  They weren’t on Lake Tahoe.

This didn’t stop Rusty.  His own rich background on the sea gave him enough experience to judge for himself.  His grandfather and father had sailed all their lives and he had been raised on talk of the sea.  His father sailed for pleasure on the Oslo fjords, around the coasts of Sweden and Denmark in the Baltic Sea, and visited the coast of Germany with his sons aboard as crew on many of the trips.  Rusty learned to handle a sailboat at the age of nine and grew up to be a member of the crew when his father entered his boat in races.

Rusty & Marion Sailing Lake Tahoe

Rusty & Marion Sailing Lake Tahoe

It was natural for Rusty to enter the Norwegian Royal Naval Academy.  He graduated in 1927 after satisfying their requirements of 32 months at sea, 12 months of which he spent on a four masted Baroque and 12 months on a freighter engaged in foreign trade.  By 1940 he held the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

So he said nothing to the old timers at Lake Tahoe.  He selected his boat, a Bear made by Nunes Brothers in Sausalito, California, and launched it in May, 1948.  It is a graceful 24 foot boat which can attain a speed of eight knots.  Bunks for four, a galley, and toilet make it comfortable for weekend cruises.  Rusty claims it cannot capsize because of its 2,100 pound keep.  He thinks it is great fun to go out on the lake in the blowiest day he can find and the unseaworthy motorboats have to bob at their moorings.  the heavy chop is too much for them.

With an eye to business, Rusty persuaded Nunes Brothers to make him their agent at the lake.  He was sure he could sell boats in spite of the prejudice and he wanted to make boat pay for itself.

No one knows what the old timers muttered to themselves.  They watched the Polaris with gloomy interest for the first summer and in spite of no mishaps they still refuse to climb aboard for a sail.  Once Rusty sailed into one of the biggest harbors on the lake built to accommodate motorboats and asked the owner, strictly a motorboat man, to come aboard.  rusty grins when he tells this and won’t quote what the gentleman said.  It was evident from his florid face he was not complementary about the invitation.

Even today amazed speedboat owners circle the Polaris to stare openly as if they had discovered a whale in Tahoe’s waters.  Nevertheless, Rusty sold one sailboat in July, 1948, and sold two more this last summer.

Newcomers who haven’t heard all the dire predictions about sailing have implicit faith in Rusty’s skill and knowledge.  He is a man wo inspires that faith.  You know as soon as you see him he belongs to the outdoors.  He is a quick moving person whose every motion spells vitality and strength.  Sailing parties in Rusty’s boat--and Rusty is an engaging host--are a highlight of anyone’s vacation at Tahoe.  The more interested novices take lessons from Rusty and learn to said a boat with skill.

The Polaris

The Polaris

History reveals n the early days there were sailing schooners on the lake engaged in the lumber business.  They disappeared before 1900 and sailing was forgotten.  Rustad is a pioneer in introducing sailing as a sport to Tahoe.  “We need one more sailboat and then we can hold a regatta,” Rusty says jubilantly.  The dream is fast coming true.

Afraid to sail Tahoe?  How could a man who has sailed many waters and served as a wartime skipper on a patrol ship between the Finnish boarder and North Cape to destroy mines be afraid of calm, lovely Lake Tahoe?  He even minimizes the experience hs and his wife had when Norway surrendered to Germany and they managed to get aboard a freighter bound for England.  The boat was bombed the second day out.  They clung to some oars in the water for five hours and spent  twelve chilling hours in a lifeboat until they were miraculously picked up by a British destroyer.  No, Rusty has no fears.

The Polaris skims the lake until Rusty can sniff snow in the air.  Then she rides quietly at anchor, not because Tahoe can’t be sailed in the winter, but because you can’t keep Rusty off skis when there is snow.

Two years ago Rusty leased property from the Forest Service in Tahoe National Forest.  He cleared the timber from the slopes by himself, a job in itself.  The logs were limbed and peeled with the help of a Scandinavian friend (Bert Broland) and they built a warming hut at the foot of the ski slope with them.  It is a simple sturdy log hut facing the hill.  A merry fire in the fireplace warms the skiers when they come in for a snack.

A weasel shuttles back and forth to the highway to bring skiers in and out of the ski area.  A newly built lodge with kitchen and bath in each apartment accommodates guests.  Skiers with sleeping bags are welcome and families are especially welcomed.

The location is in beautiful forested country.  Appropriately, Rusty and his wife named their ski area “Granlibakken” which means, when translated from the Norwegian, a hill sheltered by firs.  Included in the lease and adjacent to Granlibakken is Olympic Hill where Olympic tryouts were held in 1932.  Ski jumping contests are help yearly at Olympic Hill under the sanction of the Far West Ski Association.  Last year Rusty redesigned the hill to permit jumps of 200 feet.

Ski Jumping at Granlibakken

Ski Jumping at Granlibakken

If you go to the meets you can see Rusty’s influence in the techniques used by the young contestants.  Many of the natives feel Olympic team skiers will develop under Rusty and are watching his protégés with interest.  The Lake Tahoe Ski Club asked Rusty to advise and coach its members and most of the school children head for Granlibakken on sunny winter afternoons to take lessons from Rusty and watch his flawless skiing.

It is not surprising Tahoeites are taking advantage of Rusty’s knowledge. In Norway when he was eighteen, nineteen, and twenty Rusty took sixty-eight cups in skiing contests.  Five or six were for second and third places and the remainder were first place.  He modestly admits that at that time he was one of the five top jumpers in Norway.

Today you can see Rusty make exhibition jumps at Sierra Nevada ski meets with other famous veterans such as Sig and Arne Ulland.

Historic Ski Hill

Granlibakken Ski Hill

Rusty’s ski hill is floodlighted and he recalls an amusing experience he had in Oslo the first time he jumped on a lighted hill.  He and some of the younger jumpers wanted to take the first jump easy, but Sigmund Ruud, a famous jumper, scoffed at the idea.

“And really,” laughs Rusty, “the lights were so bright you could see better than at day.  Or so it seemed.” One by one they jumped the 200 feet and one by one they fell at the bottom--on a hill they knew by heart.  They were soaring up above the lights and the terrific glare on the snow below gave them the eery feeling they had lost the hill and there was no place to land.

If you ask Rusty when he learned to ski he smiles and say, “Oh, I

don’t know.  As soon as I was able to walk, I believe.”  When you watch him ski this is easy to believe.  He really looks as if her were born on skis.  His four year old daughter takes after her father.  Diminutive Binth skis down kill skillfully and sometimes shouts, “Bend knees!Bend knees!” to less proficient skiers.

Ski School Tahoe

Ski School Article

Rusty’s easy grace inspires his pupils.  they learn quickly under his tutelage and most of them learn to adore him at the same time.  Last year he gave lessons to groups of youngsters from Tahoe Lake Elementary School.  A ski meet was held for the youngsters at Granlibakken and later a party was given at school to pass out awards.  In addition to the silver pins the winners received, they were given photos of themselves and Rusty.  One little girl raced home with he pin and photo and proudly showed her mother.

“But, honey, you look so glum in this picture.  Why didn’t you choose another one?” her mother asked.

“Oh, I couldn’t do that,” the little girl said solemnly. “I took this picture because it was the best one of Rusty.”

Rusty’s success in making his hobbies pay is largely due to the fact he wasn’t afraid to dig in and do everything from wielding an axe to using his head and finding out his own facts after everyone told him “it couldn’t be done.”

Join us in celebrating 95 years of family fun at Granlibakken Tahoe. Click here for details.

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Weddings at Granlibakken TahoeA stunning forested setting, award-winning catering, lodging onsite, and an experienced events staff will ensure that your wedding day at Granlibakken Tahoe is memorable and elegant. Granlibakken Tahoe’s location in a 74 acre wooded valley just one mile from Tahoe City and the shores of Lake Tahoe is convenient to get to year-round, and is breathtaking in all four seasons.


Granlibakken Tahoe offers lodging and event space onsite that can accommodate groups of up to 350 people. Lodging options range from standard bedrooms to three-bedroom townhouses-perfect for groups of all sizes. Indoor and outdoor venues-from the spacious Mountain Ballroom to the tree-lined Big Pine Lawn offer spaces that complement Granlibakken’s forest setting.


Catering and event services are offered onsite by an award-winning staff. Granlibakken’s wedding coordinator will work with you to ensure that all details of your special day are executed flawlessly. Granlibakken’s Executive Chef and kitchen staff prepare delicious dishes in a variety of styles, and the beverage list with options for signature beverages will guarantee a good time had by all.Weddings at Granlibakken Tahoe


Make the weekend memorable—Granlibakken offers a variety of activities onsite and nearby, from the Treetop Adventure Park ropes course to an onsite ski and sled hill. Hiking and biking trails abound around the property, as well as river-rafting, kayaking, swimming, and sightseeing. The newly renovated Soul Shelter yoga and meditation space is a perfect place to hold a group yoga class, or to take some time to rejuvenate and relax in the heart of Granlibakken’s property.


Get married under the snowy pines with Granlibakken Tahoe’s Winter Wedding Special. Get 50% off venue fees for weddings held between November and April each year. Granlibakken’s wooded mountain setting and onsite activities will make your winter wedding unforgettable.


Airport transportation to and from the Reno airport is available, and Granlibakken Tahoe is just a few hours’ drive from San Francisco and Sacramento—convenient for guests arriving from near and far.

Learn more about weddings at Granlibakken Tahoe.

Contact Granlibakken Tahoe's Special Events Team to inquire about pricing and availability.

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Granlibakken Tahoe, as a part of their Sierra Soul Series of Wellness Events, will be hosting two wellness retreats in 2018. These retreats are designed for health enthusiasts of all levels and abilities. Featuring workshops and seminars covering a variety of topics and practices, these unique events offer ample opportunity to learn, grow, and practice under the tutelage of some of the Tahoe region’s best wellness practitioners.

Granlibakken’s unparalleled setting in a wooded valley a short distance from Lake Tahoe offers the perfect setting for health and wellness retreats, and their relationships with health and wellness experts in the Tahoe region allows visitors and locals alike to engage with the Tahoe wellness community in an intimate and personalized way.

Restorative Arts and Yoga Festival, June 1-3, 2018

The second annual Restorative Arts and Yoga Festival (RAY), is designed to inspire and teach yogis and health enthusiasts of all levels of experience and practice. This unique event capitalizes on the expertise of Tahoe and Truckee based healers, wellness practitioners, and yoga instructors for three days of classes, seminars, and outdoor activities.

The schedule for RAY 2018 was just released, and features a variety of classes—from daily sunrise yoga classes to an interactive drum circle to close the weekend. RAY 2018 offers an unparalleled experience focused on the restorative arts. Many of the seminars focus on meditation, introspection, and inward and outward connections—to one’s self, to the earth, and to others. There is also ample time to connect and socialize with other event attendees—from an opening intention-setting ceremony to nightly fire pit socials and tastings offered by local breweries and wineries.

Discounted lodging is available onsite at Granlibakken Tahoe. The full weekend of events is just $276 when booked prior to February 28. Prices go up on March 1. Learn more here.

Wellness Weekend, November 9-11, 2018

In 2017, the sixth annual Wellness Weekend (formerly Women’s Wellness Weekend) opened registration to men as well as women, and made some significant changes to the schedule that had been used in previous years. More changes can be expected for 2018—with more movement classes, a focus on interactive education, and a third day of activity classes added. This event will remain open to all genders and ages, and will continue to focus on education in Eastern and Western philosophies and modalities.


Discounted lodging is available onsite at Granlibakken Tahoe. An early-bird rate of $260 for the full weekend of events is being offered for a limited time. Learn more here.

Keep in touch! Click here to sign up for our email list, and be the first to know about deals, events, and more!


Written by Carol Van Etten

Carol Van Etten is a Tahoe research historian who has been studying and writing about Lake Tahoe history for over 30 years.  Her love of Tahoe and its history date to childhood summers spent at the family cabin in Rubicon Bay, where she first heard stories of the lake in earlier times.  She is a 1970 graduate of UC Davis and attended University of Chicago graduate school in English Literature.

An important aspect of Van Etten’s research has been the collecting of oral history interviews.  Since 1982 she has recorded over 100 conversations with Tahoe’s ‘old timers’, adding greatly to the information available through written records.

Van Etten has written 5 books on Lake Tahoe history subjects, including Meeks Bay Memories, Tahoe City Yesterdays (out of print), Prewar Wood, Lakers and Launches, and Lake Champions.  More information can be found at her website,

Lake Tahoe History

Toboggan run built by D.L. bliss at Ski Canyon

Although the Sierra Nevada’s first snow sports activities can be traced to the late 19th Century, the Winter Sports Grounds of the Tahoe Tavern, a grand resort built by Duane L. Bliss near Lake Tahoe’s Outlet in 1901, are the ski area in longest continuous use of any in these mountains. Today this ski area is known as Granlibakken.

In December 1926, following the Tahoe Tavern’s sale to the D.M. Linnard hotel interests of Pasadena, Southern Pacific Railroad (Linnard’s parent company) converted the hotel’s 16-mile narrow-gauge line to Truckee to standard gauge, providing the all-weather access essential to a successful winter season.

A canyon southwest of the hotel was chosen as the Tavern’s Winter Sports Grounds, and Manager Jack T. Mathews hired local residents to build a toboggan slide and warming hut on its east slope. He hired international ski-jumping champion Lars Haugen to design and oversee construction of a ski “trajectory” farther up the canyon.

Mathews hired professional ski jumpers from the Chicago area to

Tahoe Tavern

Sleigh rides at Tahoe Tavern

perform exhibition jumps for weekend crowds who arrived at the Tavern via special SP trains and were delivered to the Sports Grounds aboard six-horse sleighs. The toboggan slide was iced nightly for speed, and sledders and skaters could thaw out with hot beverages in the warming hut.

Despite these attractions, the Tavern’s first Winter Season was a financial disappointment, and the next two seasons were shortened to several weeks at Christmas plus the weekend of Washington’s Birthday. Truckee’s annual Sierra Dog Derby, which debuted in February 1929, was the only significant winter event that year and the next.

Exhibition jumps performed on the “Tavern hill” inspired the local children to participate, and community enthusiasm grew, though the future of the Tavern Winter Season looked bleak. A bid by the newly-formed Lake Tahoe Ski Club to stage the 1932 Winter Olympics lost out to Lake Placid, New York. Snow in California? Preposterous!

Lake Tahoe Ski History

Skiing at Ski Canyon

However, at a dinner at Tahoe Tavern in January 1931, Wilbur Maynard, Truckee resident and SP Winter Sports Manager, announced that the National Ski Association had selected Lake Tahoe as the site of the 1932 National Ski Tournament. With less than a year to prepare, the LTSC scheduled a State Championship meet for February 1931.

The 1932 meet at newly-christened Olympic Hill was a moment of glory for Tahoe ski-sport enthusiasts. Governor Rolph was on hand, as was popular actress Anita Page, Queen of the Meet. Early February storms threatened to cancel the event, but abated just in time for local residents to foot-pack the hill to perfection.

The successful staging of the Nationals brought confidence to the LTSC and Ski Canyon would be the scene of dozens of tournaments prior to the outbreak of WWII. The Tavern’s owners, however, sensed that their financial opportunities from local snowsports had peaked, and their Winter Sports Grounds, though still used by LTCS members for recreation and competition, would not see another Winter Season for 17 years.


As the world returned to peacetime following World War II, retired

Tahoe City History

Kjell "Rusty" Rustad, Granlibakken's founder

Norwegian Naval Officer Kjell “Rusty” Rustad was searching for a postwar enterprise to suit his two favorite pastimes: skiing and sailing. He was expert at both, and Lake Tahoe seemed to offer opportunities worth pursuing.

In 1947 Rustad leased the parcel once known as the Tahoe Tavern Winter Sports Grounds from the Forest Service and, working alone with an axe and handsaw, began to prepare the north-facing slope for use as a ski hill. The following year Rustad hired local carpenter Bert Brolund, and worked with him to build a log warming hut using the tall, straight red fir trees removed from the hill. A living quarters for the Rustads and two dormitory-style rentals followed.

Rusty was also working to revive the old Olympic Hill, site of the 1932 National Ski Jumping Championships, and on March 7, 1948 the LTSC held its first state-sanctioned meet there.

On January 22, 1949, Rustad, his wife Marion and daughter Binth held an Open House to introduce the community to their new ski venture, which they named ‘Granlibakken’ (a Norwegian phrase meaning “a hillside sheltered by fir trees”). Rusty arranged to teach the students of Tahoe Lake School to ski, extended the existing rope tow and added a second tow for beginners, while Marion took care of the business.

At that time, what is now Granlibakken Road was not plowed in

Granlibakken Ski History

The weasel at Granlibakken Tahoe

winter, and access to the ski hill was by a military surplus Weasel, which could tow a sled carrying 12 passengers. About 1952 an auto bridge over the Truckee River was constructed on Tahoe Lumber Company property, briefly affording better access, but in the soggy winter of 1955-56, high water carried it downstream, and the Weasel was reinstated.

The hard work of Rustad and other volunteers to prepare a second, smaller ski jump for the use of local youngsters paid off on March 15 & 16, 1952, when the Junior National Ski Championships were staged at Granlibakken.

In 1953 Rusty and Marion divorced, and she and Binth left Tahoe, while Rusty continued to promote the ski venture alone. That year, Rusty sold acreage across the road from the ski hill to UC Berkeley’s International House, whose volunteers built a lodge there. In 1954 Rusty married Jeanette Gorham, who joined him in the operation of the business.


Cal Alumni Center Granlibakken

Cal Alumni Center

In December 1958, the Cal Alumni Association announced its purchase of the International House property, where it planned to build a ski lodge for the use of UC Alumni, including new kitchen facilities, a 150-person dining hall, a swimming pool and two buildings to provide sleeping accommodations for families. Built and staffed primarily by UC students, the Alumni Center was completed in 1960.

In 1968, the Alumni Center was sold to New York publisher M. Hughes Miller, who built the canyon’s first condos and developed The Four Seasons, a popular dinner house. In 1974, Miller would be riding the wake of his company’s huge best seller, The Joy of Cooking. However, his Tahoe venture did not fare so well, succumbing to bankruptcy in 1976.

Bill and Norma Parson purchased the resort in 1978, reviving it and

Granlibakken condos

Granlibakken Tahoe

the original name. Today the Parson family continues to operate Granlibakken, hosting international conferences as well as the general public. Among the amenities still available to all is the ski hill with the marvelous pedigree.

Join us in celebrating 95 years of family fun at Granlibakken Tahoe. Click here for details.

Keep in touch! Click here to sign up for our email list, and be the first to know about deals, events, and more!



Thank you for joining us at Wellness Weekend 2017. We had an amazing weekend with you all. We hope that you enjoy these photos from Wellness Weekend 2017. Click here to learn more about Sierra Soul Wellness Events.

Written by Roger Gabriel

Roger Gabriel first began his wellness journey in the 1970s, training to be a meditation teacher under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. His extensive training and engaging approach has brought Roger to teach meditation, Ayurveda and yoga in seminars and workshops all over the world.  Roger is closely connected to Deepak Chopra and has assisted Deepak with numerous programs.  He has taught thousands of people around the world the power of self-transformation through meditation. Roger will be lending key insights from his many years of experience to attendees of Wellness Weekend 2017 at Granlibakken Tahoe.


Yoga Lake TahoeThe good news is that we are all already Enlightened, all perfect in every way - perfectly happy, perfectly healthy and all our desires are instantly fulfilled.  Unfortunately, the bad news is that we’ve forgotten it and so live these less than perfect lives, where we get sick, depressed and frustrated by unfulfilled desires.  Our spiritual journey to Higher States of Consciousness, isn’t about learning anything new, it’s about remembering what’s already here, remembering who we really are. 

Everything in the Universe has awareness.  We can choose to live in constricted, limited awareness or in totally expanded awareness.  The only difference between the average person and an enlightened sage is awareness.  Most of us live in self-imposed limitations, whereas the sage lives in the unbounded freedom of fully expanded awareness.  We say, “I’ll believe it when I see it”, the sage believes it and it becomes. 

The Vedas describe four different time periods or Yugas called Sat, Treta, Dwapara and Kali, each lasting for many thousands of years.   

Sat Yuga is the Golden or Enlightened Age.  A time of joy and peace, a time without crime or violence, sickness or suffering.  People had yogic powers and lived in higher consciousness, a state of Oneness. 

Over time, people allowed themselves to become tired and stressed, they became distracted and allowed the purity to slip away.  This led to the beginning of moral decay, dualism and the time of Treta Yuga where only half the people lived in higher consciousness. 

Lake Tahoe Wellness WeekendAs the ego awakened, trickery and fraud emerged, the true purpose of life became lost.  The world entered Dwapara Yuga where very few remembered higher consciousness. 

The collective consciousness continued its decline and the world entered a time of chaos and confusion.  Thinking became turned upside down, conflict and suffering became accepted as the norm.  Materialism dominated and the world descended into Kali Yuga. This is where we find ourselves today, where only a few shining lights live in higher consciousness. 

This obviously could be a very depressing story unless we remember that, at the Cosmic level, time doesn’t exist.  Sat Yuga never really ended, except in our minds, as a result of being distracted and seduced by the external world.  By simply turning our awareness inwards, away from distractions, we can, once again locate the field of Pure Awareness within and begin to restore the memory of Wholeness in our lives.  This is the journey of meditation, from chaos and confusion to peace and harmony.  A journey from ordinary consciousness to Higher Consciousness and its re-integration as our everyday reality. 

When God created the Universe, She wondered where to place the Essence of Life, the Light of Awareness.  Some angels suggested hiding it in the distant stars, others suggested the deepest oceans.  But God said, “We’ll place it deep in the hearts of every human being, only the wisest of seekers and the true lovers of life will think of looking for it there”. 

This Light has and will, always be with us, hidden deep within.  All we need do is turn our awareness inwards, away from the noise and into the Silence.  This Light is the Light of our Soul and, when we nourish it, it will grow brighter.  It will illumine our journey out of the darkness of Kali Yuga, back to the sunshine of Sat Yuga and Higher Consciousness.  As the poet Rumi said, “Why do you stay in prison, when the door is wide open?” 

Deepak Chopra

Roger Gabriel with Deepak Chopra

The Vedic texts describe seven states of consciousness.  Each of them has its own biology, emotions, and the way in which we experience the world.  We are all familiar with the first three.  These are the states we experience every day – the waking, dreaming and deep sleep states of consciousness.  Collectively, we have accepted these as our “normal” states of consciousness but, as we will see, so much more awaits us. 

We all have thoughts and one thought leads us to the next.  However, between any two thoughts, there is a space or what Deepak likes to call the gap.  If this wasn’t there, all our thoughts would be happening at the same time.  This gap also has two very important qualities – it’s silent and a field of infinite possibilities.  If it wasn’t silent, it would be the next thought and between any two thoughts is the possibility for any other thought.  However, we are not our thoughts, we are the one who thinks them so, the only place where the “thinker of the thoughts”, our Essential Self or our Enlightened Self can be, is also in the gap between thoughts. 

All the creativity, insight and inspiration, joy and peace in our lives comes from this gap.  Unfortunately, because of the chaos and confusion that surrounds our lives, we have almost squeezed the gap out of existence.  The key to regaining Higher States of Consciousness therefore, is to slow everything down so we can spend more time in the silence of the gap and less in the noise, so we can enjoy its blessing every day in our lives. 

Roger Gabriel


Transcendental Consciousness          

The simplest way to spend more time in the gap is through meditation and particularly mantra meditation such as Primordial Sound Meditation.  Mantra meditation is a systematic process to take our awareness from activity to the field of Silence and Infinite Possibilities.  Our awareness moves to subtler and subtler levels of thought until we slip beyond (transcend) thought and into the gap between them.  This can also be called Soul Consciousness, where we aren’t aware of anything in particular but everything in general.  A state of Pure Awareness or Pure Consciousness.  A non-local state of Being, which we can call a fourth state of consciousness.  Awareness becomes aware of itself, intentions come from Being not from ego.  This is your true birth place, your country of origin from where you temporarily travel to the waking, dreaming and deep sleep states. 

By regularly alternating between meditation and normal activity, Transcendental Consciousness begins to be established within Waking, Dreaming and Deep Sleep Consciousness.  The non-local field of Silence and Infinite Possibilities becomes available in the midst of your everyday localized experiences.  Higher States of Consciousness begin to unfold. 

Cosmic Consciousness 

Now a fifth state of consciousness dawns, where we experience the local and non-local at the same time.  The silent, unbounded, unlimited Self witnessing the small, limited self, performing its activities of waking, dreaming and deep sleep.  Past, present and future are experienced as the Eternal Now.  You realize that you are not the mind and body you are the role-player in the multitude of roles you play.  Now you can fully enjoy the roles without being overshadowed by the good or bad scenes.  The mind is fully awake.  The fear of death disappears as you realize that death happens to an experience, not to You. You experience the Divinity within yourself. 

Divine Consciousness 

As we continue our spiritual journey, our awareness continues to expand.  The non-local value you recognized in yourself, is now seen in everyone and everything else.  You recognize that you live in a celestial world filled with the Divine.  You begin to see everything at its most refined level.  The heart fully expands bringing a state of deep unconditional love. 

Unity Consciousness 

Finally, we reach the end of our journey.  Separation dissolves and everything is seen as an expression of one’s own Self.  You still function in the localized world but recognize that you also have a universal body.  Everything is your Self in different disguises. The whole Universe is your body, your projection.  You are in the world but not of the world. 

In Cosmic Consciousness we experience miracles, in Divine Consciousness we create miracles and Unity Consciousness everything is the miraculous. 

Higher Consciousness is with us right now, we can have glimpses of it at any time.  It’s in the spaces between thoughts, the spaces between breath and the spaces between objects.  Slow down, take time out from the events and objects and become aware of the spaces.  One day, the glory of Enlightenment will fully dawn in your life. 

Lake Tahoe Wellness Weekend


Click here to learn more about the Lake Tahoe Wellness Weekend and to see the full schedule of events.

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Sustainable Earth YogaAshley Aarti Cooper is a storyteller, Yoga instructor, nature guide, and nonprofit unicorn. She resides in Truckee, CA, leads international yoga retreats, and co-hosts the Restorative Arts and Yoga Festival at Granlibakken Tahoe in Tahoe City, CA. She can be reached at or on Instagram at @ashley_aarti.

The holidays are a special time, filled with family, friends, and loved ones, good food and good cheer. But often during the holidays, we don’t take time for ourselves. It is important over the holidays to not only give to others, but also to indulge in self-care—whether that be taking a few moments in the morning for yoga, spending some time outdoors, or meditating to focus and refresh your mind, body, and spirit.

We have all heard the benefits of meditation: decreased stress, Lake Tahoe Wellness Weekendanxiety and tension accompanied with feelings of well-being, patience, concentration and compassion.  These benefits are easy to grasp conceptually and many of us make ourselves grand promises to start integrating meditation into our daily lives.  With the best of intentions, we sit down in a silent room and get to “shutting our brain off.”  It is not long before our knees start hurting, our to-do lists start screaming and our shut off brain is running on overdrive.

The problem is not you or meditation.  It is all in the approach.  To begin, be easy on yourself.  Choose a technique from below or elsewhere that suits you personally, and just challenge yourself to five minutes a few times a week.  Meditate in a truly comfortable position-whether you are sitting cross legged, in a comfortable chair, or lying down with pillows supporting you.  You can practice at home or, if you do better with group activities, attend a class.

Yoga Lake TahoeWhen many of us think about meditation, we think of sitting down in silence with our legs crossed and our mind blissfully blank.  This is the Zen Buddhist practice of zazen, and it may be this simple for some of us.  Many more types of meditation exist, however, and for every learning style there is an approach to meditating.

Guided meditations are extremely useful in anchoring you to the present moment by providing structure and sound.  If you don’t want to attend a class, there are many excellent free guided meditations on the internet.  Visualizations are also extremely useful anchors and can be guided or learned ahead of time.  Some people use a mantra (a word, sound, or statement) that is silently repeated or murmured. When using mantras, you can also hold japa mala beads which resemble the Christian rosary: each bead is a single repetition of your mantra.

For whichever approach you choose, remember a few things:

  • First, the purpose of meditation is not to attain anything, we meditate to become present.
  • Second, the brain will not simply shut off; the trick is to allow thoughts, ideas, images, etc. to come without holding on or judging.
  • Third, meditation is a practice. The progression of this practice will reflect the amount of time and effort put into it.


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Sustainable Earth Yoga

Ashley Aarti Cooper is a storyteller, Yoga instructor, nature guide, and nonprofit unicorn. She resides in Truckee, CA, leads international yoga retreats, and co-hosts the Restorative Arts and Yoga Festival at Granlibakken Tahoe in Tahoe City, CA. She can be reached at or on Instagram at @ashley_aarti.

I came back to the woods four and a half years ago after spending my

Tahoe Retreat

Photo courtesy of Ashley Aarti Coope 

early adulthood amidst the rich, chaotic hum of big cities and the sweet, salty sunsets of easy beaches. I should have anticipated where I would eventually settle, for each visit home to Massachusetts would send me out to the woods of my childhood. And there I would stay for hours.

Sometimes I chased my dogs along the trails and swam in cold, refreshing reservoirs, pulling myself out to dry on sun-warmed boulders. Other times I slowly meandered along those peaceful forest floors that are alternatively spongy and resistant, blanketed in grass or the brilliant mosaics of autumn leaves. There, like all deciduous forests, each season pulses with its own distinct life, intoxicates you with the smell of muddy creek beds or spring flowers, chills the tip of your nose, or sits sticky on your skin. The woods welcomed me back with open arms upon each return. In my relationship with the wilderness I found a mutual respect and understanding that was more difficult to come by elsewhere.

I started Sustainable Earth Yoga Retreats (SEYR) in 2011 after moving from the madness of life in Buenos Aires to the peace of a jungle ecological project in Northern Argentina. SEYR is a yoga project built on passing forward the practices and healing of life attuned to nature, and living on this planet with more give and less take. I co-hosted my first retreat on that red-clay land to help participants connect with themselves and nature through Yoga, jungle immersion, and workshops on natural remedies and sustainability practices.

Forest Bathing Tahoe

I brought SEYR with me when I returned to the United States in 2012. Soon, I discovered Truckee and Lake Tahoe, California, and I’ve been here ever since.

As a wilderness and mindfulness guide, someone drew my attention to shinrin-yoku, the Japanese practice of “Forest Bathing.” Developed in the early 1980s, shinrin-yoku means to “take in the forest atmosphere,” and since its inception, substantial resources have been invested in researching its psychological and physiological benefits.

From 2004 - 2012, Japanese officials and researchers did a deep-dive into the potential healing effects of shinrin-yoku. The benefits include:
• Boosted immune system functioning
• Reduced blood pressure
• Reduced stress
• Improved mood
• Increased ability to focus
• Accelerated recovery from surgery or illness
• Increased energy level
• Improved sleep

Shinrin-Yoku Lake TahoeThe research echoes what we already know intuitively: nature speaks to us, and we respond. Trees emit essential oils called phytoncides that protect them from germs and insects, and they extend this immune-boosting magic to humans. Breathing in forest air increases the activity of Natural Killer cells, white blood cells that play a major role in the body’s rejection of tumors and virally infected cells. These effects can be measured for a month after exposure.

Studies, like those performed at Japan’s Chiba University, have also found that just thirty minutes in the forest lowers salivary cortisol levels. Cortisol is involved in blood pressure maintenance, anti-inflammatory function, and immune function, among many other regulatory processes. Researchers also found that forest visits lower blood pressure, increase heart rate variability, and have a a profound effect on the nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system, which regulates the fight-flight-freeze stress response, is typically in over-drive in modern life. Shinrin-yoku puts the sympathetic nervous system at ease, and turns on the parasympathetic nervous system to regulate our rest-and-digest response and restore the body to a state of calm and balance.

All of this has implications for our chronically stressed populace as well as those who experience acute stress such as people recovering from surgery, disease, or traumatic experiences. Shinrin-yoku inspired me to bring more structure and directed intention into my meditative nature walks.

I saw the effects most clearly when working with combat veterans. Simply being in Tahoe was healing for my clients who often suffered from post traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. As part of five day retreats, my co-guides and I led Sensory Hikes which combined principles of shinrin-yoku, Yoga, and sensory experiences. On top of the medicine the forest was already delivering, tuning into the present through our senses, breath work, and mindful awareness taught our clients how to begin controlling their minds’ fluctuations. After each retreat, clients consistently reported they would bring these tools home. They were also eager to return to the forest with their families.Shinrin-Yoku Tahoe

To practice shinrin-yoku, or to truly immerse ourselves in a forest environment, we must approach the practice with intention. We draw our attention to the way the Earth feels beneath our feet, and may even sit, dig, or crawl in the dirt. We watch the subtle and drastic play of the wind in the grasses. We close our eyes to smell the sweet sap of a pine tree, and begin to decipher the subtle differences between a bird’s greeting and a cry of alarm. We may taste wild mint, or stick our bare feet into the shock of a spring creek. As a Yoga student and teacher, I often incorporate meditations on the five elements of Ayurveda and Yoga that are constantly at play in our external and internal landscapes: Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Ether.

This deepening presence helps us recognize we are not merely passing through natural environments, nature recognizes us as one of her own. All the while, she whispers songs of ease and health to the cells of our body, the hormones in our saliva, and the chemistry in our brain. In our response to these songs, a mutual respect and reciprocity is discovered, and we begin to care more deeply for nature and her well-being as well. We begin to live with less take and more give.

Of course, like so many of our spiritual practices, none of this is any new secret discovered, only ancient wisdom remembered.

“May the sun bring you new energy by day, may the moon softly restore you by night, may the rain wash away your worries, may the breeze blow new strength into your being, may you walk gently through the world and know it's beauty all the days of your life.” - Apache Blessing

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