As it prepares for the upcoming ski season, Retallack Lodge is remembering Peter Leontowicz, a “powder mining legend” who died this month at 88.
“Put simply, we owe our existence, and some of the best days of our lives, to Pete and his son John, the original founders of Retallack,” the wilderness ski lodge said in a tribute on its website.
A December 2000 profile of Leontowicz in Powder Magazine began by noting that he didn’t ski, and in fact seemed annoyed that skiers used his vintage mining cabin as a base lodge.
“Leontowicz is a miner,” wrote Porter Fox. “He doesn’t have time for skiers and their fancy figure eights … He can’t imagine why people waste their time frolicking in the snow and ignore what lies beneath it.”
The Ituna, Saskatchewan native was certain the mountains around Retallack — the same ones that saw the Silvery Slocan rush of the 1890s — still contained enough ore to “retire the entire Slocan Valley [and] fund the UN for a year.”
But while he held out hope for the day that mining would make a comeback, he was pragmatic enough to realize that in the meantime a cat ski lodge might be more lucrative.
In 1991, he approached backcountry ski operator Grant Copeland about the recreational potential of the land he held mineral rights to.
Copeland “immediately envisaged both a snowcat and backcountry touring operation,” according to a 1996 story in the Vancouver Sun.
That same year Leontowicz, his son — who predeceased him — and a group of shareholders, began work on the $1.1 million Retallack Lodge.
“Looking at this virtually unlimited terrain, it is obvious Retallack is in the ski business for the long run. And it is clear the resort will soon be one of the premier ski destinations of the southern interior,” Fox wrote.
“And that really pisses Pete Leontowicz off.”