RETALLACK | FROM MINING TO MOUNTAINBIKING
With an old heritage from the golden years of mining, Retallack Lodge is one of the most interesting destinations in mountain biking right now...
Deep in the British Columbia (Canada) interior there is a new mountain biking mecca being built. With an old heritage from the golden years of mining, Retallack Lodge is one of the most interesting destinations in mountain biking right now. Dirt Magazine went for a visit last summer for a trip of a lifetime.
DIRT ISSUE 133 - MARCH 2013
Words by Riley McIntosh. Photo by Mattias Fredriksson
Kris blasts the corner ahead of me like a rocket. Loamy earth flies everywhere, and I shred into the corner, leaning my bike, trusting my tyres to grip with all my faith. I have never had so much fun on any trail…ever. I have never experienced dirt this deep, the trails are like a soft thick carpet and as you ride soil and earth is flying everywhere. I am at Retallack Lodge.
Picture in your mind a massive timber frame lodged perched in the forest. Above is a huge green mountain. Four thousand vertical feet of forest bursting with the flowiest, most creative trails you can imagine. Filled with loamy dirt, curving berms, and hand split cedar bridges The crazy thing about Retallack is that it is a business that runs on one core product: shredding the best trails, and skiing the best snow on the planet. Tucked deep in the Selkirk Mountains in the Kootenay Region of British Columbia, Retallack isn’t easy to get to, but that is part of what makes it so amazing.
It wasn’t always a mountain biker’s dream though. Starting in the 1890’s, a mass migration of miners flocked to the region after the discovery of massive veins of Galena Ore on the very mountain Retallack’s trails are built on. This led to the staking of hundreds of mines, and the town site of Retallack being serviced by hotels, brothels, and a train. After 50 years of incredible back breaking labour by many interesting characters from all over North America, silver prices dropped, the mines lost their yield, and everybody vanished. What was left behind? Miles upon miles of trails carved into the mountains, through deep forests, alpine meadows, and across slopes that nobody would dare to build a road across in modern times.
Today, Retallack Lodge sits on 30 city lots in what was once the main street. All winter long a steady stream of clients pay big money to ski the best powder skiing terrain in the world. And in the summertime? Mountain biking nirvana.
During my stay at Retallack, I was guided around the trails by the head trail builder Kris McMechan. I have never been shown so much fresh trail and descended so many vertical feet in such a short time. Following Kris down the trails was like being thrown into a New World Disorder movie. He was whipping every little rise and fall, airing into steep downhills, exploding over bridges, and making it look so easy.
That night, we shared beers with the likes of Evan Schwartz and Garret Buehler, who were both there filming big mountain lines in Retallack’s terrain for upcoming video parts. In the previous few weeks Retallack had played host to a continuous stream of talent including James Doerfling, Ian Morrison, Matt Miles, The Coastal Crew, and some of the best mountain photographers on the planet. From what I heard everyone was blown away by the massive amount of riding and fresh new trails.>>
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Kris and I did a bunch of laps on the House Trail, which is directly above the lodge. In fact, the last feature, a huge double roller coaster, spits you into a high–speed berm directly into the parking lot. The House trail starts at 4,000 vertical feet above in the sub alpine. It begins with high–speed flowing berms through thick Rhododendron bushes before eventually working its way down into the thick huge timbers. The views of the adjacent Selkirk are truly in your face, the jagged 7,000 foot peaks feel so close you could reach out and touch them.
My favourite experience at Retallack was the lower section of the House Trail. It follows a series of ridges through the forest that lead like spines through the trees, and in some places there are no other ways a trail could go through the area, it is so steep to one side. In some places the trails passes evidence of the mining days, including a 100 year old pickaxe nailed to a tree, which Kris found partially buried while digging out a side hill section.
In the forest in front of the parking lot is a pump track, fire pit, and tons of cedar bridges for practicing skills on. There are series of drops, wooden tabletops, and even a dual slalom track.
After a few days of shredding Kris took me out on another of Retallack’s signature trails, called Powerslave. After taking a helicopter to the top, we were dropped on a 7,000 peak with 360º views of mountain ranges spreading in every direction. The trail downwards took us three hours to complete, with the most variety I have ever experienced in one trail. We rolled in the small arty mountain town of Nelson totally bagged from the ride and were treated to beer and burgers on a downtown patio, with Powerslave Peak clearly visible above. We were joined by Garret Buehler, who has ridden all over the world, and insists that there is no better trail out there than Powerslave.
After our last gourmet meal at Retallack, I said goodbye to my friends and hit the road north. A quick one–hour drive brought me to Revelstoke, where I rode three unbelievable alpine epics over the weekend. Another couple hours of driving brought me to Silverstar Resort in Vernon, where I enjoyed the freshest berms and flowiest bike park trails I’d ever ridden.
Now, back at home on Vancouver Island, after having worked all day, I sit here at my computer and look at photos from the trip. I can’t believe what an inspiring place Retallack is, an operation designed to give its guests the best trails and guided riding out there. At Retallack the trails are exactly what you dream of when you think of BC riding.
This really is a special trip and in the summer of 2013 Retallack will be offering people the chance to experience the goods in a three day package that includes guided riding, a helicopter drop on ‘Powerslave,’ all gourmet meals, and accommodation in the luxury lodge which has games rooms, a hot tub, and everything you could expect from a high end hotel. Guests will be led on the trails by professional guides with a focus on safety and skills development, including some time on the pumptrack and skills park honing skills, and getting more dialled in with drops and cornering. And for the guests that want to ride some of the most unique trails in BC as much as possible, let me tell you, the staff at Retallack Lodge are almost more excited to ride than their guests!
Nearest airport: Kelowna (4 hours) Spokane (5 hours)
Drive time from Vancouver: 7 hours
Trip Cost: $1500 (3 days)