I have to confess that I’ve been smitten with this place for nearly 12 years. It was love at first sight for me back in January of 2001, and it’s only grown more serious during the 14 trips since. British Columbia’s Retallack Lodge is known for as having perhaps the best steep tree and deep powder skiing on the planet. It’s legendary status is cemented in the minds eyes of skiers all over the globe via the pages of countless magazines and myriad film segments. In large part it was this entity and the people that make it work that were the catalyst for my photography career, serving as both inspiration and enabler. So when rumors of a summer mountain bike operation began swirling two years ago, I was keenly interested in what they would conjure up.
While still in its infancy, the formula for summer fun is strikingly similar to the one they’ve used to create a winter nirvana: Mix equal doses of epic terrain, a beautiful lodge, easily accessible yet utterly remote locale, stunning scenery, and amazing food; throw in a healthy dose of pro riders, film companies, and photographers; then let nature take its course.
The only slight variation is that of building trail, which their crew is doing at a prodigious rate under the watchful eyes of Paddy Kaye from Joyride Bike Parks and Kooteney trail building legend Riley McIntosh. Factor in the seemingly non-stop flow of mountain bike media that has been setting up camp here and there’s little doubt that next year’s magazines and video edits will be crammed full of Retallack’s super hero loam, flowing berms, steep chutes, and perfectly wrought features.
Due to a particularly ugly run in with a branch that found its way seven inches into my abdomen, our August trip was postponed to late September. I was lucky to be alive, much less able to ride a bike again when Eric Porter, Carston Oliver, Andrew Whiteford, and I finally headed to BC. Our lucky streak continued as the fall colors were popping, the weather was perfect and World Cup Downhill legend Kirt Voreis was at the lodge with his wife, Lyndsey, to serve as tour guides. What followed was exactly what I had hoped would happen, the crew gelled, the riding was sublime, and summer lodge life at Retallack proved to be just as good as it is in the winter.
Trail building takes time, so for now there’s only one trail that leads back to the lodge. The “House Trail” drops a quaint 4,500 vertical feet and delivers the full gamut of BC riding with flowy berms, steep chutes through old growth timber, and epic man-made features before it spits you out just above the lodge into a skills park with a pump track, various size drops, a dual slalom course, and a few fun wooden features. Don’t despair though, the tenure allows Retallack to guide a bevy of local trail networks that include the steeper than steep “Monster” descent with sublime views over Kooteney Lake and the town of Kaslo, as well as the “best day of your life” heli-drop on top of the legendary 7,500-vertical- foot roller coaster of dirt sculpting perfection known as “Powerslave” that was made famous in the LifeCyclesfilm.
It’s already more than enough to keep you occupied for a five-day stay and Retallack’s plan is to build a massive network of trails leading directly to and from the lodge with an eye towards even more flow, the type of trails that induce giggles and grins from all levels of riders. Having seen first hand what they have to work with, I can’t wait to return year after year to see what new playgrounds are created.
- Nat Geo Expeditions