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10,000 years of History

The lands surrounding Retallack have been occupied for more than 10,000 years.

The first peoples to settle and use the areas surrounding Kootenay Lake and Slocan Lake were the Ktunaxa and Sinixt, who traded amongst each other and had camps along the foreshores of the local lakes and rivers. The Okanagan first peoples also made traditional use of the surrounding areas.

For thousands of years first peoples enjoyed the natural bounty of the land, seasonally migrating throughout their Traditional Territories to follow vegetation, fishing and hunting cycles. They obtained all food, medicine and material for shelter and clothing from nature.

European settlement in the late 1800s significantly altered the first people’s way of life and led to the establishment of present day First Nations reserves and bands.

Cultural and heritage values represent the physical and spiritual remains of activities that were, or are still, being practiced for the purposes of ritual, ceremonial, spiritual, economic or cultural well-being of First Nations traditions. Accordingly, we continue to consult with First Nations in a cooperative sense of sharing to identify values and to wherever possible address concerns in the areas of archeology, cultural or traditional use, environment, wildlife and economics.

As an example, we support the Ktunaxa Qat’muk Declaration and are opposed to the development of the proposed Jumbo ski resort in this sacred area.

Ktunaxa sturgeon-nosed canoe on Kootenay Lake

Ktunaxa sturgeon-nosed canoe on Kootenay Lake

1891 Silver Discovery

Prospectors Eli Carpenter and J.L. “Jack” Seaton discovered a silver-lead ore deposit, located in Retallack’s present day tenure, near the source of Slocan Creek. The following year, mining boom towns sprung up in the Kokanee Mountain Range, as hopeful prospectors flooded into the area. The townsite of Whitewater was established around “Bell’s Camp” servicing the Whitewater Mine.

The Whitewater Mine became the second largest silver/lead/zinc mine in the British Empire and was “lit up like Coney Island.” The town boasted several hotels, numerous brothels and casinos, its own school, and was a key stopping point for the “Kaslo to Sandon (K&S) Railway.” Due to the large amount of mail that went to Major John Ley Retallack, the owner of the Whitewater Mine, the postal service decided to officially rename the town to “Retallack.” The mine continued to operate until the 1950’s, after which Retallack became a ghost town. In total the mines at Retallack and Sandon produced more money than the Klondike, California, and Caribou Gold Rushes combined!

Retallack Lodge is now located on a city block of the old townsite and owns much of the surrounding private blocks of land. Little remains of the old townsite, however, Retallack is now regarded as a key stop on British Columbia’s famed “Valley of the Ghosts.” Hundreds of mineral claims are still in existence in the area. Two turn-of-the-century mining buildings are still located on Retallack’s lands, and Retallack owns the mineral and surface rights to a rare 50-acre Crown Grant situated in the alpine on an old silver mine.

From mining silver to mining powder

In the early 1990’s a group of local miners applied to the Government of British Columbia for a catskiing tenure on the lands above their subsurface mineral claims. After years of struggle and red tape they were eventually granted a tenure in 1996 and launched Retallack Resort & Alpine Adventures. An 11,000 sq ft luxury timberframe lodge was built by hand and architected in a style to reflect its mining heritage.

The establishment of a pro-skiing mecca

The company was acquired in 2007 by its present management along with investors including world renowned freeskiers Seth Morrison and Tanner Hall. The company was rebranded and underwent a complete turnaround of its operations that required substantial capital investment. In 2009, Retallack was ranked as the “Best Cat or Heliskiing Operation in the World” by Freeskier Magazine in both its industry and reader polls. Retallack is now renowned as a pro-skiing mecca and is frequently featured in numerous magazines and films throughout the world.

In 2009 and 2010, Retallack hosted Red Bull’s largest skiing event – “Cold Rush” designed to determine “The World’s Best All Round Skier.” The following year in 2011, “Retallack: The Movie” was released by Red Bull Media House after being co-produced by Tanner Hall’s Inspired Media. In 2014, Retallack hosted the “Orage Masters – the first time this unique competition was ever conducted in the backcountry.

From mining powder to mining dirt

Major John Ley Retallack, OBE

Major John Ley Retallack, OBE

In 2011, after an intensive four-year approval process, Retallack was granted an exclusive commercial mountain biking tenure on trails dispersed over 1.5 million acres in the West Kootenays. This resulted in the launch of the world’s first guided backcountry mountain biking program.

In 2014, based on the success of its pioneering mountain biking program and another exhaustive and costly government approval process, Retallack obtained authorization to create the world’s largest heli-biking and backcountry mountain biking operating area. The new tenure amendment reinforces Retallack’s leadership position in heli-biking and professionally guided backcountry mountain biking and authorizes an additional 280% increase in the development of downhill singletrack, all-mountain / enduro, and freeride mountain biking trails within British Columbia’s Selkirk and Purcell Mountains. Presently, Retallack is continuing to develop a plethora of trails that will enable customers to access additional descents of up to 6,000 vertical feet via a combination of helicopters, off-road shuttle vans, and boats.