Paul Rogers learned to ski under Kjell "Rusty" Rustad's tutelage, and shares his memories of Granlibakken Tahoe here.
Some things never change. Paul Rogers remembers learning to ski at Granlibakken—for many of the same reasons that people choose Granlibakken today. He says that learning to ski at Granlibakken in the 60s was the obvious choice because “other resorts are so big-it makes sense to start small.” Today, with affordable ticket prices and approachable terrain, Granlibakken remains a great ski area for families and beginners alike.
One thing has changed since the days that Paul and his brothers whizzed down the Granlibakken slopes on their 200cm Head skis—Rusty is no longer offering lessons. Kjell “Rusty” Rustad, a Norwegian skier and sailing enthusiast, first developed Granlibakken as a stand-alone ski resort, building lodging onsite, expanding the existing ski area, and giving what was then known as Ski Canyon the name “Granlibakken,” which means “hill sheltered by fir trees” in Norwegian in 1947.
Paul describes Rusty as “demanding, but very interested in capturing the energy of the teenagers that he taught.” Learning to ski on long skis—200cm skis, the pupils learned to ski without the luxury of poles, gloves, and were required to keep a paper plate secured between their knees when learning under Rusty’s tutelage. The lack of poles and gloves encouraged better balance, and the paper plate encouraged what was considered good form—with legs close together to manage the huge skis. Paul says that even now, when he skis the slopes of Alpine Meadows with his brother, they will comment “You looked like Rusty going down that slope!” It was a distinct way of skiing, made necessary by the long skis and ingrained in the youth by Rusty’s firm teaching methods.
Rusty was also known for his jumping. He had set up jumps for various ability levels, and Granlibakken was known as the best place to learn to jump in the region. Paul’s twin, more of a daredevil, enjoyed this component of Granlibakken’s hill, but Paul describes “the rope tow might have been the scariest part of learning for me!” The original rope tow that Rusty constructed is gone, but in its place is a Poma platter lift, still a challenge but well worth the ride to the top of the hill.
Paul even remembers learning to drive on Granlibakken road. His father piled the family in their station wagon with snow tires, and told Paul that this was his opportunity to learn to drive in the winter. Typical of Sierra winters and small streets at the time, a lot of snow had fallen and Granlibakken Road had not been plowed. The station wagon got stuck a ways down the road, and the family had to wait until help came to get unstuck.
Paul describes Granlibakken as a rustic resort, fun for families, with memories being made all winter. He says “Rusty was quite the legend. Although he is gone, a lot of memories of him and Granlibakken live on through the people he taught.” Paul certainly has many memories of his time at Granlibakken, and of Rusty, the man who propelled Granlibakken into local fame. For generations, people have learned to ski and ride at this modest hill, making memories and sharing laughter and good times. This tradition continues today, and although some of the local legends have passed on, their memory lives on.
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