Retallack is like Whistler on steroids. The adventure starts on your trek to the lodge itself, driving the serpentine roads that cut through the heart of inland British Columbia, gliding across lakes on the eerily silent cable operated ferries and tackling the small regional airports that really take their 2 oz liquid policy seriously. This journey is well worth the end result. Nestled in the backcountry you’ll find an unplugged experience designed to delight the mountain biker in all of us.
Hearing of Retallack Lodge for the first time? Look no further for paradise on earth. Sandwiched between Slocan and Kootenay lake, Retallack offers a one-of-a-kind backcountry adventure for mountain bikers. Boasting dozens of the world’s best downhill trails, heli-biking, and a 5-star lodge experience, it has everything you’ve been looking for in a mountain bike vacation. The temptation of visiting Retallack was too strong to resist, and we met up with PNW Squad member Kyle Warner at the lodge for a weekend we’ll never forget. Tease your inner adventurer with the video of the trails below and convince yourself you’re in need of a vacation with the article that follows.
To be entirely honest, we weren’t 100% sure what we were getting ourselves into when we booked our trip to Retallack. We knew from the lodge’s website that we would be taken care of in regards to food and entertainment, and we were excited by the footage we saw of the trails, but in large part the remainder of the visitor's experience was somewhat of a mystery.
Upon arriving at the old mining town turned mountain bike heaven, we were thrilled to find that our lack of knowledge about the accommodations was not due to a lack of quality. The immaculate lodge can house 24 guests, includes a full service bar, meals prepared by professional chefs, a giant hot tub, a creek to cool off in, disc golf, bike wash/maintenance stations, beautiful rooms, a game room for post ride entertainment, and a drying room for wet gear (that's all 😉). A massage therapist can even be called in from the nearest town if you're feeling a bit beat up after a long day on the trails. We enjoyed the spotty cell service and satellite wifi as it allowed us to embrace the escape.
After dropping our bags in the room and building up our bikes, we wandered the property to become better acquainted. Behind the lodge is the hot tub and a path down to the creek where you can take a dip or have a fire at night. The woods in front of the lodge have a massive set of jumps and the end of one of the many trails you'll ride during your stay. Yep, you read that right. The trails literally end in the front lawn of the lodge and when you get back from a morning of riding there will be a table full of snacks, sandwiches, and drinks waiting to help you recharge.
The next day we woke up feeling like it was Christmas morning. The chefs cooked one helluva breakfast and after a safety meeting and waiver signing party we were ready to gear up and get out for our first laps. The shuttle rigs at Retallack are fashioned from retired military vehicles where the bikes are securely loaded on top and the riders sit in school bus style seats behind the driver’s cabin. Hair metal and pre-2000's rap are blasted through the sound system to get everyone fired up.
The drive to the trailhead is full of incredible views and the occasional trail sighting. You would think gravel roads in the middle of the mountains would make for a sickening ride, but the shuttle rigs and their massive tires are more than capable of smoothly scaling rocks and crossing water bars.
Speaking of trail sightings, see the "bald" spots in the clearing of the photo below? That's a huge drop that few riders have hit (Alex Volokhov sends the drop in this Instagram video) and right around the corner are the jumps from Hoff Fest, Kurt Sorge's stop in the Fest Series.
Unloading the bikes from the shuttle rig is a three person job. The driver unties the bikes while the trail guides distribute them amongst the riders.
Pre-ride cell phone photo inception... If you don’t document your time at Retallack, how are your Instagram followers going to know you went to Retallack?
Aaron (PNW CEO) leading Emily (PNW CMO) through one of the most beautiful subalpine trails we've had the pleasure of riding. Every corner on the trail opened our eyes to new sights and it was sometimes difficult to keep from stopping and taking in the view.
Included in each visit to Retallack is one lap of heli-biking to the top of either Texas Peak or Reco Mountain. For an additional $250 per person, you can load into the helicopter again for another lap. After a safety meeting with our guides and the pilot, we divided into small groups and organized our gear to make for efficient loading of the chopper, our new favorite shuttle vehicle.
We were fortunate enough to share our stay at the lodge with a few of the mad lads from Team Granite, an east coast based MTB team that very clearly knows how to have fun. Amongst the group was Ryan St. Lawrence, an incredible human being and the first adaptive rider to shred the trails at Retallack. During our trip, Kyle took the opportunity to sit down with Ryan and record a podcast that provides a glimpse into the life of an adaptive rider. You can give that a listen here: Kyle Warner Interviews Ryan St. Lawrence.
Sitting in the front seat of a helicopter is breathtaking, especially when flying through the Kootenays. Sitting in the front seat of a helicopter while your bike is mounted to the side of it so you can ride on the peak of a mountain? That's life changing.
As you're flying to the top of Reco Mountain, you can see the trail winding down and around the side of it. The trail starts on the left hand side of this picture and works its way towards the switchbacks on the right. From there you continue to ride around a shelf that takes you out of frame on the right.
This may not be in New Zealand, but the landscape on the mountain’s peak made it feel as if we were nearing the border of Mordor. The southern facing photo below shows the start of the trail on Reco.
The helicopter pilot wasn't about to let the views get all the attention and he quickly stole the show by diving down the face of the peak towards the other riders that were waiting for their shuttle.
See the trail leading back up the hill in the photo below? That's the same trail that was visible while in the helicopter.
The trail down from Reco consists mostly of bench cut that traverses the hillside through wildflowers, gopher holes, and sometimes a few bears. We were fortunate enough to not encounter a bear on the trail, however the group riding in front of us cannot say the same -- they were momentarily chased by a territorial grizzly. We're hoping that's a once in a lifetime experience for them, however we can't help but be a touch jealous of the story they can now tell for the rest of their lives...
Our second lap via helicopter took us to Texas Peak. This trail was much steeper than the descent from Reco and connected with one of the longest machine groomed trails we've ridden. The video at the beginning of this article shows the trail from the view of the drone at 3 minutes and 8 seconds.
When sitting on the peak of a mountain with your bike, it's best to have some fun.
Aaron getting in on the action with one of the most epic backdrops for #manualmonday that the internet has ever seen.
It's hard to find the right words to sum up our stay at Retallack. It was incredible, exhausting, and humbling all at the same time. Over three days we made new friends, descended 10's of thousands of feet on some of the best trails imaginable, ate delicious 5-star meals, disconnected from the hustle of everyday society, and flew in a helicopter. It was an experience we will never forget and we would recommend it to any of our friends or readers in a heartbeat. If you ever find yourself deciding whether or not you should go to Retallack, just do yourself a favor and go. Your wallet may be a bit lighter, but your heart will be much more full.
We'd like to extend a huge thank you to everyone involved with our trip to Retallack. From the lodge staff to our guides, Atli and Smoke, ya'll are amazing and we hope to see you again soon!