Retallack Dreams: Pillows and Poetry in Interior BC

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“My life is a dream, and you are all in it.”

The enigma that is Karl the Gnarl is reading a poem that he has surely read dozens of times, but it rings true. A sketchy highway, a ferry ride amongst towering peaks, and a winding mountain road dotted with relics of a bygone mining era deliver you to the dream that is Retallack Lodge. It is our first night in the lodge, which sits an hour and half north of Nelson, BC, or a couple hours south of Revelstoke, depending upon how you swing it. What we know is we have entered a dream shared by many, but lived by few—a dream of steep, deep tree lines, pillows and camaraderie; a dream that is just entering lucidity.

“I take you to the mountains in my Starship Enterprise,” Karl continues. A compact man with a full beard and a bit of grey up top, Karl is pretty well known throughout the ski world—not only for his frontier poetry, but also his contagious energy and deft skills in the driver’s seat of a snowcat. It is a poem heard throughout “Retallack: The Movie,” and a poem that rings true within the confines of the lodge.

“Respect gravity, respect your guides, respect each other.” Or something to that effect—I am too wrapped up in the buzz of anticipation to take proper notes. A loud round of applause sings a simple message: Amen, Brother Karl. Tomorrow, we ski.

The assembled crew hails from the Rocky Mountains to the Chugach and the PNW—Steve Metcalf, Laura Patten and Adrian Glasenapp from Colorado; Seattleite, TSKJ subscriber and “big winner” Shane Anderson; Mervin Mfg’s G. Trevor Phillips; Nate Escalona from Stevens Pass; Revelstoke expat Sakeus Bankson; Funny Feelers Jessica Galbraith, Jessie Carlson, Matt Wibby, Sebastian Garber, and yours truly; we are ready to ride and entrenched in the Kootenay vibe. Guides Kevin Arcuri and Karla Rizzuto are strong skiers, and describe conditions as surprisingly stable, given recent avalanche activity in surrounding areas. Tomorrow, it is on.

Day one and waist deep blower—avalanche safety and beacon brief, a couple warm-ups in the trees, and Retallack’s bounty unfolds: steep trees, pillows, repeat. This is what Retallack is known for, and this is what Kevin and Karla deliver. “If you want to huck, go left,” becomes a mantra, and, as they get to know our comfort level, they are willing to allow us to find airs and lines, while also providing easier options for those who want to keep it on the snow. Day two reveals much of the same, yet just a little steeper, a little deeper, and with a little more hang time. The first run, Retallack shareholder Tanner Hall drops a nearby ridge with a heli buzzing overhead and flows a three into a big mountain line—we promptly find a couple ledges of our own. Hot tubs on the mountain lead to a hot tub at the lodge, a round of Caesers and a bonfire. The dream doesn’t seem to end.

Warming temps send some on a Dolly Varden hunt on the third day, while those of us who choose to ride find plenty of enjoyment in hit runs, hot pow, and pillow poppers aplenty. And the snow returns… we keep the dream alive.

Alas, after four days in the deep, the dream must come to an end. With new friendships forged over pillows and Pilsners, some depart for home, others to further powder adventures. But we leave basking in the afterglow of a Retallack experience that won’t be soon forgotten—and one to which we fantasize return.

A huge thanks to Phil, Kevin, Karla, Mark, Wylie, Karl, Kate, Tamae, Lydia, Sara and the rest of the Retallack staff; to Marc and his traveling bar, Brandon, Chris, Chin and the rest of the crew in the other cat, with whom we shared evening entertainment and a few choice lines.

And this, on the final night from Steve Metcalf, esquire:

“Honesty—like we all should hear it

Spills amply from this mountain spirit;

But iambic pentameter

Cannot contain

This force.

This man,

Perhaps insane;

It’s Karl—the Gnarl

Who laughs last;

His dream is real

While ours is over

Too fast.”

Here’s to our collective Retallack dream.

Main Image: Adrian Glasenapp. As we arrived, JP Auclair and the Orage team were just leaving. Here’s a video, as JP saw it–conditions for us were much of the same… although we only dream of skiing like JP.


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