When I arrive at Retallack Lodge, a remote cat-skiing operation deep within British Columbia’s Selkirk range, I find out I’ll be sharing a cat with a rowdy group of snowboarders from Breckenridge, Colorado – shop techs, waiters, and a doughnut fryer. These guys have spent a month’s earnings on a single day of cat-skiing. They claim they’re fast and hungry for powder and cliffs, which normally would satisfy me. Except that I was expecting Seth Morrison.
In 2007, Retallack brought on some new investors, including freeskiing’s biggest stars, Morrison and Tanner Hall. So when I show up one night in late February I have high hopes of skiing with the pros. “Sorry, no Tanner and Seth,” Retallack’s general manager Phil Pinfold tells me. “They were here about two weeks ago.”
My consolation prize? A tall can of Stella and some bro-speak (“Dude, it’s gonna be siiick tomorrow!”) around the lodge’s two-story granite fireplace. I’ve never skied interior BC before and the Breck boys have never ridden anything steeper than 30 degrees. Although it hasn’t snowed in four days, our guides, Tim Shenkariuk and Marc Deschenes, promise they’ll find us fresh tracks.
Retallack receives upwards of 35 feet of snowfall each year. And its terrain rivals some nearby heli operations, covering 9,500 acres over three towering 9,000-foot peaks. “This place isn’t for soft skiers,” Phil says. He isn’t kidding: Lines with names like Morning Wood and Viagra tip to 40-plus degrees through open bowls and tight chutes, and one run is two and a half miles long.
The next morning, after a feast of homemade sticky buns, bacon, French toast, and veggie frittata, we load into the loudly painted 12-person cat. Bob Marley blasts from the speakers. On either side of us, the slope plummets 2,000 feet to the valley floor. The cat lurches to a stop and we eagerly pile out.
Looking out at the Selkirks surrounding us, the group is stunned speechless. A few minutes later, I’m clicking into my skis on a cloud-high ridgeline staring down a 35-degree shot of untouched, well-preserved powder. I should let the doughnut fryer have the first line, but I don’t. I drop in and blast through the steep, powdery trees as fast as I know how. If Seth Morrison was here, he’d be proud. Maybe.
Lodge: A hydroelectric-powered timber-frame lodge with a hot tub, a sauna, wireless internet, and an in-house masseuse named Ginger.
Food: Homemade cinnamon buns and scrambled eggs to start the day, massive sandwiches and chocolate-chip cookies in the cat, and dinners like spicy yellow curry and endless tallboys of beer.
Max elevation: 8,500 feet
Max vertical drop: 4,200 feet
Average daily vertical: 1,800 vertical feet per run. Record number of runs in a day is 13.
Price: Two-day packages, including food and lodging, start at $1,365. Day rates, including lunch, start at $325. Best time to go is January through March.