This winter we visited the Granlibakken Resort for the first time after hearing very positive recommendations from friends, and we had a blast! Big thanks for those recs.
Granlibakken is a large (somewhat historic?) resort located in NW Tahoe. It is a self-inclusive resort where you can enjoy activities for several days without needing to leave the premise, as we experienced. We chose this resort because our young kids at this point just want to simply play in the snow, build snowmen, make snow angels and maybe sled a bit. We, as the adults, just wanted to relax and not stress, not need to drive everywhere. It turns out this is the best place for us from all these winter trips to Tahoe that we’ve ever had. We just returned from Ganlibakken yesterday, at which point many folks had already started work, so it was less crowded than normal, but still lively.
On our first day, we checked into our lodgings and trekked down to the “Snow Play Area”, where we discovered a Ski Hut with food/rentals/tickets, an adjacent bathroom, an outdoor patio with firepits and more food, as well as a s’mores kit to purchase and a view of the Ski Hill and the Sledding Hill. Knowing that sledding would be more than enough for our kids, we got tickets to the Sledding Hill and took them over. Unfortunately, we missed the Lower Slope and went straight up the Higher Slope, which ended in terrified kids and a crash, but exhilarating and without injury. We trekked back to our room, a little out of breath probably due to the elevation and awaited dinnertime. For dinner, we dined with friends at the Cedar House restaurant next to the Lobby and was presently surprised with live guitar music, jolly service, decent food at a decent rate. The night ended pleasantly and we had learned a bit more about how things worked at Granlibakken.
The next morning, we descended to a fulfilling breakfast buffet (we were very late, but they were super accommodating), with a nice selection of hot foods, cereals, beverages, fruits and more. Now, more experienced, we headed to the Ski Hut and got our passes for the Sledding Hill again. This time we spent nearly 4 hours on the Sledding Hill – Lower Slope and the experienced was much improved. After a few times sledding with them, the kids started sledding on their own and didn’t want our help anymore. After a bit of sledding, they would walk to the treeline beside to the Lower Slope and make snowmen, snow angels, then go back to sledding.
During this time, I walked back to the Ski Hut and picked up a beer and some juice (unsure it was allowed for me to bring those back to the Sledding Hill, as I did it discretely). We adults grabbed a spare disc, folded some clothes on it (we got warm under the afternoon sun) and sat on the disc with layered clothing so our butts didn’t get too cold, sipping beer. It was nice I had also packed some snacks, so we were well nourished during sledding, constantly with snacks and drinks. I called and made reservations again at the Cedar Lodge for dinner that evening. As we left the Snow Play Area, we walked by the Ski Hill where lots of kids were learning to ski and I got to point that out to my kids and ask them if they wanted to try it. They both were so enthused from the wonderful sledding experience that they enthusiastically agreed. So I also started my research into ski lessons that evening.
Before we left the Snow Play Area, we stopped by the Ski Hut to pick up some late-Lunch. As there was a long line inside the Ski Hut, I went to the patio and got some nice hot dogs and burgers in a takeout box to bring back to the room to eat, since the room already has complimentary coffee/teas. Upon returning to our room and gorging on the food, the kids couldn’t stop telling us what a fun day they had. Then we rested up in the room and got ready to head down to dinner.
Our final morning, again more experienced, I bought the Sledding Hill passes on my phone during breakfast. We went down there and got started with some of us heading to the Sledding Hill and some trying out skiing. I also rented skis for one of the kids and myself to teach them how to ski, since all lessons were sold out that morning. The Ski Hill has a little rope you can grab onto that will pull you up the slope and the general area was very relaxing for learning. We finished, as our friends remained and they headed for the heated pool/hot tub nearby, and we headed out to visit more friends on our way home.
Overview of Granlibakken:
- Snow Play Area: During the winter-time, open to resort guests and visitors. Parking can get full.
- Heated Outdoor Pool and Hot Tub: For resort guests only, accessible with your room key, next to the Snow Play Area
- Day Spa: also adjacent to the Snow Play Area. Don’t know anything about it as we didn’t use it.
- Treetop Adventures: Ziplining from tree to tree was open and functioning when we were there, but we didn’t try it. It’s on the rear-side of the resort away from the Snow Play Area
Let’s talk Snow Play!
The Ski Hut:
- Sledding Hill Passes: It was about $18 during holiday season for visitors or $9 half-price for resort guests (show your room card). Everyone needs a pass to get into the Sledding Hill area, even if you don’t plan on sledding. Pass is good for all day, in and out privilege, includes sledding disc usage. (Can be transferable, if you didn’t zip tie it to clothing that you can’t take off to pass between users) To skip the line you can buy your passes in advance on your phone and head straight to someone for pickup.
- Ski Hill Passes: Not sure as we got ours in a bundle with the rental. You can check their website to see latest info. I think Resort Guests also get 50% off these passes. (Might be able to buy this pass online, unsure.)
- Foods: Food and drinks are sold inside the hut, but often with a line. Hot dog, burgers, s’mores kits are sold outside the hut on the patio, usually with no line. There’s a nice young man that does the grilling and we’ve enjoyed every hot dog and burger that he’s made. He can also give you a takeout box to bring the food back to your car/warm room to eat since seating is often limited around the Ski Hut.
- Seating, Tables and Firepits: inside the Ski Hut and outside on the patio, but often limited. But everyone is friendly and welcoming if you just want to squeeze by the fire pit to toast a marshmallow from your s’mores kit.
- Bathrooms (Day Spa next to it): Can sometimes have a line, so I would walk to the hotel lobby bathrooms instead
- Rentals & Purchase: They have ski rentals, helmet rentals, as well as beanies/googles for purchase. We rented skis from them and were happy with the equipment, though we don’t really have a reference point since the last time I skied was decades ago.
- Ski Hill: Very good for learning, as it’s very low stress, easy to access and suitable for beginners. We much prefer to learn/practice her than Squaw or Heavenly.
- Ski lessons take place here by a 3rd party company, so you won’t get a resort discount for this. Book in advance as we booked too late, though they allowed us to be on standby and we got a spot by which time we were getting ready to leave. But again, very friendly people.
- Sledding Hill: Features a Lower Slope for little thrills and a Higher Slope for crazy thrills. You pick up a circular sledding disc when you first enter. (No need to bring your own sled, and some types of sleds are prohibited due to high accident rates. The circular ones they provide are the safest, per them.)
- Lower Slope: Suitable for everyone, but you’ll mostly see young children and little toddlers with their parents/guardians. The Lower Slope is fenced in for safety with a snow pile at the end to help stop the sled. It was very easy for my kids to just do it themselves after an initial intro by us (and after getting over their lingering terror from the Higher Slope earlier).
- Higher Slope: Suitable for older kids and adults. The Higher Slope is lots of fun, but requires a small trek to get up there. You will come down a pretty steep slope and gather quite a bit of sleep before slowing down at the bottom. There is always an attendant at the bottom to control traffic, where sledders are trying to cross to get to the Lower Slope, and to flatten the snow if needed. Sometimes the bottom would build up with snow causing a mini hill to appear, and sledders would come down that Higher Slope, slide up the mini hill and take a small flying trip to the end. It’s nice there’s an attendant on site the entire day to ensure safety and to flatten that hill so no more sledders go flying.
- Nearby Meadow: There was also a nearby meadow you could walk to from the Lower Slope that saw some families playing there as well. It’s a lovely, forested area next to the Lower Slope.
- Finished: simply pick up your discs (and of course your trash) and return the discs on your way out.
What and where to eat in Granlibakken?
- Breakfast in the GranHall: Hearty breakfast can be had in the Granhall, close to the Lobby. Be aware of breakfast times because it differs depending on when you go (holiday vs. non-holiday vs. weekday vs. weekend)
- Ski Hut All day food: they close around 4p
- Cedar House Restaurant: Next to the Lobby. It fills up starting around 6:00p. I would recommend making reservations, especially for large groups, and to dine earlier. The food is good, the price is reasonable, we enjoyed the live music and really appreciated the super friendly service. Finally, it’s so easy to get there from our lodgings, it’s nice not needing to drive out to town.
Driving in the resort?
We did ended up needing to drive around the resort to/fro dinner and the Snow Play Area because our lodging was on the far side. Plus even going up a small slope left out out of breath probably due to the elevation, much less exhausting for the kids. The benefit was that nothing was longer than a 2 min drive and the resort was self-sustaining that we never needed to leave it.
Recommended Food Stop if it’s on your way