Have you ever heard of a place called Kaslo? How about New Denver? Odds are, unless you live in the BC interior, or have a good knowledge of it, you have never heard of those places. But nestled at the top of the pass between these two Kootenay towns is a place called Retallack.
This, if you’ve come to a catskiing site and are reading this, is a place that you heard of (and we won’t make you find it on a map). Well known for its picturesque pillow lines, beautiful scenery, and shareholders that are among the skiing elite in the world of big mountain skiing, it’s a place we’ve wanted to go to for many years. We managed to get in on an open spot, and found ourselves out there for a last minute one day trip in early January, and man were we stoked when that chance came up.
After the uneventful drive through the beautiful Slocan valley, we pulled up to Retallack lodge, which is only a minute off the highway. It had a neat feel to it with the cat shed off to one side, the mushroom looking snow capped roof lines, and beer and appies inside. Accommodation is provided in very spacious double rooms, each with an adjoining en suite. And when you get your feet out of those sweaty boots, walk into the bathroom and brace for that cold foot shock, you are greeted by nice warm heated floors. In fact, the entire lodge is heated by a boiler system that gets it's energy from a generator on the river that runs nearby. Talk about Eco friendly, Retallack was the first cat or heli operation to be awarded four green keys from the Hotel Association of Canada’s Green Key Eco-Rating programme. http://www.retallack.com/eco_awareness.php
The lodge also has a very casual, relaxed atmosphere for the downtime between skiing. There is a cozy living room area with a fireplace, a games room with a pool table and ping pong, and satellite TV for those time you can't be away from the tube, like Superbowl. Or, as happened to us, the gold medal world junior hockey game between Canada and the U.S.A. We don't need to go into any more detail than that. Yes, we got silver.
It had snowed 30cm in the past five days and a high pressure system was in the forecast for a few days, so we were hoping for sun, and we were not disappointed. It was still dark as we made our way down to the breakfast buffet, but the sky started to take on that deep hue. You know it, the one you see when you know it’s about to be clear and sunny in a couple hours.
We were set up with Raman and Dave as our guides, and they did a great hands on avalanche safety briefing with some good practice and knowledgeable tips. The snowcats are wrapped in sponsor logos and have a cool feel to them that makes the Retallack experience something different than other operators. Tunes playing inside, skis all strapped to the back, we plunk ourselves down and make our way to the top. The cats at Retallack have features you won't find many other places such as in cat glove dryers and comfy high back chairs.
I always get antsy when I am excited to go skiing, but the first ride up at place that you have never been before, the anticipation builds even more. We got out on top of this thin ridgeline, and the view with clouds filling the valleys below, literally took your breath away. We were in the bright sunshine and looking at some great terrain. The runs through the top trees were exhilarating, and the knee deep snow was just like being the only skier on that 8:30 first chair at your favorite hill on a sunny new snow day.
I dream about perfect days of skiing where everything all lines up together. Was this one of those perfect days? Almost. The weather was nearly perfect, don’t get me wrong, and the snow (although not blower deep), was still phenomenal. Unfortunately we were limited to terrain by some snow and avalanche conditions, and had to stop earlier in the day due to the fact that the sun goes down. But those dream days, they will happen. And if you find yourself stumbling upon one, pray that you find yourself on a little piece of highway 31A between Kaslo and New Denver. Hope that you are booked in for a long stay. Then buckle your boots, because when it all comes together, Retallack is a place that will blow your mind.