Retallack Cat Skiing

Overall Rating

Retallack

Retallack4.7/53
Retallack4.7 out of 5 based on 3 reviews

Retallack Cat Skiing

Overall Rating

Retallack4.7/53
Retallack4.7 out of 5 based on 3 reviews

Retallack Cat Skiing BC Canada

Are you addicted to skiing or riding powder? Do you hate the sight of egg shell carton shaped ski runs? Do you despise the crowds at the ski resorts? Thankfully at Retallack Cat Skiing there are no moguls to be found, there’s more than enough elbow room for any powder mutt, and Retallack has plenty of the awesome fresh powder that you’re obsessed with. Throw in loads of fun and steep tree skiing, and you’ve got powder hound ecstasy.

Retallack offers multi-day cat skiing packages that include lodging and meals, with increments of 3, 4 and 5 days duration and the occasional 2 day trip.

In addition to a high emphasis on safety and challenging terrain, Retallack has a culture that is incredibly fun. The operation attracts people from a range of ages, but they have in common a sense of adventure and exuberance. It’s not surprising that this is a very popular cat skiing operation which is booked out at times. Get in early, because it would be cat-astrophic if you missed out on cat skiing with Retallack!

See our Retallack cat skiing review for more reasons to have a powder trip with Retallack.

BTW “Retallack” is pronounced such that it rhymes with “metallic”.

Bookings & Information Requests

If you have any questions or would like to enquire about a specific date click here.

Where is the Retallack Lodge Located?

Whilst it’s not the easiest place to get to, the remote location is part of the appeal of cat skiing at Retallack. The Retallack Lodge is located in the Selkirk Mountains of BC Canada between the towns of Kaslo and New Denver, approximately 90km north of Nelson. A snowcat or helicopter is not required to get to Retallack Lodge. You can drive there on a well maintained highway, so you can pack as many suitcases as you like!

Gateway airports include Castlegar (“Cancelgar”) which is about 2 hours away, or Spokane in Washington which is about a 5 hour drive.

Being near Nelson you could include some resort riding at Whitewater Ski Resort. And very close by is Stellar Heli Skiing, based in the town of Kaslo, so you could add a day or three of heli skiing on after your Retallack cat skiing.

Retallack Snow and Terrain

The reputation of the gnarly terrain and steep tree skiing at Retallack is well known amongst really strong skiers. Retallack cat skiing is definitely not for intermediate riders, the un-fit, or wimps! They have a run called “Keep Up or F*** Off” which provides a bit of an indication of their attitude to slow pokes.

They normally cover about 8 runs a day with an average run length of 600 metres of vertical. One of the great things about the terrain is that most of the runs consist of fall line skiing with a consistent steep pitch, which is part of the reason that Retallack cat skiing is very popular with snowboarders. There are no mellow run-outs to get to the snowcat. Retallack are renowned for their steep tree skiing, but there’s also some alpine terrain on offer.

Retallack receives an abundance of snowfall (550”/14 metres per season on average). The powder is often beautifully dry talcum powder – the stuff that just blows over your shoulders. You can definitely keep your powder dry here. And considering that a lot of the terrain is in the trees, the quality of the powder is well retained, and with 3,800 hectares of terrain there is enough room to provide plenty of fresh tracks.

Retallack Cat Skiing operates 2 snowcats with a maximum of 24 guests.

See the Powderhounds review for more information on the terrain.

Retallack Cat Skiing Review

The Powderhounds hit the powder room at Retallack to check out the cat skiing operation with the gnarly reputation. The Powderhounds were impressed with the Lords of Powder at Retallack, but of course no cat skiing operation is absolutely perfect for everyone’s needs and tastes. The review covers different aspects of their operation so you can determine if Retallack is likely to align with your priorities.

Pros
  • Retallack is perfect for young people or the young at heart. It attracts a youthful, fit and funky crowd that know how to have fun. Retallack is a place where you’ll grin from ear to ear.
  • Retallack generally has deliciously deep and dry powder.
  • Retallack is renowned for their steep challenging tree skiing.
  • The runs are long and the steep pitch continues right down to the cat track. There are no easy run outs, so you’re guaranteed to be exhausted by the end of each day.
  • Retallack have an excellent emphasis on safety and avalanche risk minimisation.
Cons
  • This cat skiing operation may not be well suited to those who want to go skiing or boarding at a relaxed pace.

Powder Snow
The powder quality is pretty typical of the BC Interior with delightfully deep dry snow most of the time. And much of the snow is well protected by the trees and the aspect, so the snow quality is well maintained. Unfortunately prior to our visit there’d been a warm spell, so whilst the powder was really good at the top, the powder got rather heavy towards the lower parts of the runs.

As to be expected for the Selkirk Mountains, the snow falls in abundance but the actual volume is questionable. In some parts of Retallack’s website they cite 7-13 metres of annual snowfall, whilst their statistics page states an average of 15 metres of snow per year.
Overall Terrain
At 38 square kilometres (9,500 acres) the Retallack terrain is only moderately sized relative to other BC cat skiing, and with two cats running, the terrain size is just adequate to ensure fresh tracks. Whilst it appears that Retallack has variable terrain, unfortunately we didn’t experience this and every run had a feeling of déjà vu.

A huge plus for the operation is that the steep runs are long and the pitch generally continues right down to the cat track, with very few run outs or traverses. The whole run is a quality experience. The exception to this was one run we did that crossed a switch-backing road about 8 times, and the repeated 12 foot drops onto the hard cat track were very unenjoyable.

Another downside to our experience was a 20 minute ski down the cat track to the lodge at the end of the day, with occasional short-cuts over icy bumps. After skiing deep powder, riding the kitty litter was very uncool.
Alpine Terrain
Retallack has a moderate amount of alpine terrain, some of which has a smattering of trees. The pitch in these areas is generally rather steep, so the likelihood of being able to ski these areas is very dependent on snowpack stability.
Tree Skiing
Retallack describe their two types of tree skiing as “tree skiing” (ie tight trees) and “gladed skiing” (with a bit of space between the trees). We didn’t get to experience much of the latter. Very short stretches were in slightly open areas (generally where we took the photos) but otherwise every run consisted of steep pitches (beyond 35 degrees) with very tight trees. Some of the tree wells were huge, so the pillows of snow in between the trees were very narrow. The tree skiing was bordering on being for experts only, and was perfect for very technical skiers and riders.
Strong Intermediate Terrain

Whilst Retallack’s website states that they can cater to intermediate riders, I don’t think I’d believe it! Retallack has absolutely nothing suitable for intermediate skiers or snowboarders.
Advanced Terrain
Retallack’s terrain is probably not well suited to lower end advanced riders unless they take it really easy (or unless avalanche conditions allow full access to the alpine areas). The ability to do this may be dependent upon the guide. We had a few people in our group that were struggling somewhat with the terrain, but the guide just kept forging ahead.

For strong advanced riders, the terrain is superb. A little more variety would have scored them more points here.
Expert & Extreme Terrain
Some of the tree skiing is best suited to experts considering the steep pitch and tightness of the trees. The occasional cliff-ette was present in the trees and there are more cliffs and rocks to huck off in the open areas.
Guiding
The guiding was essentially really good, but had a few minor shortcomings. The guiding was a little loose at times with inadequate re-grouping; particularly a concern as we had a first-timer in the group who managed to board past the group on a couple of occasions. The guides were loads of fun but one lacked a little in the professionalism stakes (see below).
Snowcat
The snowcat cabin was reasonably well set up, with only minor limitations. All seats faced forwards which made for a very comfortable ride. Only the jump seat faced backwards, which surprisingly the guide didn’t offer to sit in. One shortcoming was that the lunch and snack bins were stored on the floor in between the seats, which made it difficult to walk in and out of the cat without tripping over them. Lastly the velour chairs were brown with yellow speckles that looked like baby sick. Of course this isn’t really an important aspect of the quality of the snowcat!

Retallack have the advantage of backup snowcats in case of mechanical failure.
Avalanche Mitigation Strategies
Safety is Retallack’s number one priority and this is communicated to guests and evident in the efforts they put into avalanche risk mitigation. They occasionally blast with explosives, but generally rely on slope selection to minimise risk. The snow and avalanche management system is comprehensive including weather monitoring, avalanche forecasting communications, twice daily guide meetings, well qualified guides, and sometimes they send an additional snow safety team into the field for additional testing. On-site slope testing and good instructions from the guides also minimised the risk. Three safety backpacks per snowcat were distributed amongst the guests. These contained a shovel and probe, and one pack had a radio.
Safety Briefing
The indoor component of the safety briefing regarding general backcountry hazards covered most things. However the briefing had little structure to it so the guide seemed to forget some elements, and then remember them later. Whilst it was a good briefing, it didn’t leave you brimming with confidence.

The practical outdoor avalanche transceiver training was really comprehensive and included shovel and probe techniques. However the professionalism of the guide was somewhat surprising. He made yellow snow in the presence of female guests whilst simultaneously providing part of the briefing!
Frills
Retallack provides pretty good frills. The sandwiches for lunch were simple, but the multitude of snacks and sweet treats, and the hot tea added to the “niceties” of the cat skiing experience. Retallack have a large range of powder skis and snowboards for rent, so you’ll be able to feel like a hero out on the snow.
Accommodation
The culture of the lodge is a highlight of the operation, and the multiple common areas ensure that everyone’s needs are met. You can party on, play games or chill out. The hot tub is a central hub of festivities and the massage services are also very popular.

The rooms have twin or double beds and an ensuite which is a bonus (although I’ll try and forget my cold shower experience!). The home-cooked meals are also a feature, and if it weren’t for all the energy being expended during the day, the food would definitely result in a fat-cat belly.
Value for Money
The cost per day for the cat skiing package (that includes meals and accommodation) is slightly above average when compared to other BC cat skiing operators. However considering the quality of the lodge, the meals and the powder, it’s money well spent! Unfortunately the use of powder skis and snowboards is not included in the package and attracts an additional fee.

The day skiing is very well priced, although this is only available on a standby arrangement.

Notes Regarding Review & Video

The review is largely based on our experience, but also on discussions with staff, former guests, and information available on their website. Our review has some limitations as it’s not possible to ski every run and in all possible snow and weather conditions, and the terrain skied on a particular day is dependent on the ability of the group. Every guide is somewhat different and we acknowledge that everyone’s experience will be slightly different. The ratings are from our perspective only. Check out our cat ski ratings to see how Retallack fares against other backcountry operations.

The photos and video are not filmed using professional riders, but rather aim to show an example of a real experience.

Bookings & Information Requests

If you have any questions or would like to enquire about a specific date click here.

Great Operation

Matias17/03/2015
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Age
    18-35
  • Rider Ability
    Advanced

Great Operation

Matias17/03/2015
Awesome place! The staff and guides are very friendly. The terrain is as good as it gets, definitely for advanced/expert skiers. Can’t wait to be back.

Great!

Dav11/02/2014
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Age
    51-65
  • Rider Ability
    Advanced
  • Country
    Canada

Great!

Dav11/02/2014
Some of the best skiing in the world.

The negative is the camera crews who frequent Retallack. They are there to make money while most are there to ski. Because of the limited day light there are only so many runs you can get in. If you have a crew in your cat waiting for them to set up for camera shots is not something I paid a lot of money to do.

Steep Trees Rule at Retallack

POWDERHOUNDS.COM23/03/2010
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Rider Ability
    Expert

Steep Trees Rule at Retallack

POWDERHOUNDS.COM23/03/2010
Retallack cat skiing is renowned for its steep gnarly tree skiing that will challenge your fitness, if not your ability. The runs are long and the steep pitch generally continues right down to the cat track. There are no easy run-outs where you can have a relatively restful time. As such Retallack attracts a youthful and/or fit crowd that want to have fun. Sounds good eh?

For a more detailed review see our Retallack cat skiing review.
Retallack Cat Skiing Packages
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Retallack Multi-Day Packages DETAILS
Price p/p From price based high season, 3 nights/3 days package, twin/double-share lodging.
Base/invoice currency is in CAD ex taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 2,482

CAT SKIING PACKAGES
3+ Nights | 3+ Days Snowcat Skiing/Snowboarding

Location: Canada | Tour Focus: Guided | Terrain Focus: Backcountry
Ability: Advanced to Expert
Price p/p From price based high season, 3 nights/3 days package, twin/double-share lodging.
Base/invoice currency is in CAD ex taxes.
*Displayed price may vary due to currency fluctuations.
USD 2,482
Choose from 3, 4 or 5 days of shredding pow in steep consistent fall line terrain. The snowcat departs from the lodge and you can ski/ride back down to apres ski at the end of a powder filled day. More
View inclusions & Add-ons
Click here for rates, dates & availability
Future rates & dates are currently not yet available for this operator. Click here to enquire.
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