Live from the retour d'est


By Rogier on 5 January 2021 · 0

The retour d'est: every freerider who has ever stood in the midst of this extraordinary phenomenon pays attention when hearing these words. The retour d'est can be translated as very much (as in veeeeeery, muuuuuuuch) snow in very little time at some very specific locations. And last Sunday and Monday it was on again. On the French Italian border between the Piedmont and the Queyras, the mountain tops disappeared under a very thick layer of snow.

Dumping at Valpréveyre underneath L'Eypiol
Dumping at Valpréveyre underneath L'Eypiol

Extremely local

We knew that the retour d'est is really active on the French Italian border. It snowed hard on the mountains behind the ski resort of Abries. Still, when I got into the car under a watery sun in Argentiere La Bessee (barely 30 kilometres as the crow flies) I wondered how it would be. Because:

  • We drove past Guillestre -> sun,
  • We entered Gorges de Guil -> sun,
  • We drove long Chateau Queyras a few kilometres from the Italian border-> a dusting of snow and a lot of wind,
  • Aiguilles -> a dusting of snow....,
  • A few kilometres later in Abries: BOOM! A LOT OF SNOW

Heavy snowfall
Heavy snowfall

A lot of snow

We drove past Abries in the direction of Le Roux and there really was a lot of snow. And when we walked up to the mountain L'Eypiol, our goal of the day, there was only more and more snow. Sandra's ski pole at (1 metre 10) disappeared into the fresh snow at the top of the forest.

Faceshot after faceshot
Faceshot after faceshot

Mountain Guide Martijn Schell enjoying his daily dose of faceshots
Mountain Guide Martijn Schell enjoying his daily dose of faceshots

Deep, deep powder
Deep, deep powder

Faceshot after faceshot

Not only was there a lot of snow. The snow was also absolutely fantastic. Thick feather-light powder in the forest. Above the forest it was too dangerous because of the wind and the steepness. So we stayed in the forest and that was absolutely no punishment. Conditions you dream of as a freerider. Faceshot after faceshot. Pure enjoyment.

Hidden larch stump

A collision with a large larch stump almost spoiled the day. But apart from the fact that I now have a completely blue lower leg that is quite swollen, the damage could be worse. I will need some rest for tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and who knows: I might be able to take some pictures at the end of the week!

Powder from top to bottom
Powder from top to bottom

Sandra enjoying the deep powder
Sandra enjoying the deep powder

The L'Eypiol

L'Eypiol is a mountain peak with a beautiful larch forest just behind the ski resort of Abries. In this fairly steep forest you can often ski relatively safe: even during a heavy return d'est. Just steep enough to get enough speed with meters of fresh snow and at the same time almost everywhere below 30°. Please note that when you climb out of the forest you have a few dangerous bowls where it is just a bit too steep when the conditions are tense. So I advise you to stay in the forest. And that is forest delivers treeruns made in heaven...


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