Ban on British MTB Instructors in France?


We’d wondered how long it might take for the recent British ski instructor debacle to make its way into the world of Alpine mountain biking. And here we have it.

A Les Arcs based accommodation and guiding company called trailAddiction have been ‘formerly forbidden’ from taking part in MTB guiding and instruction activities, or risk prison or a €15,000 fine. Alistair Jameson, owner of trainAddiction, employs 15 guides in the resort, is defying the ban. Yesterday he told the Telegraph newspaper:

“I have quite clearly been forbidden from working, but I am continuing to do so because I believe that the French authorities do not have the right to do this. They should recognise my diploma. I have clients who have booked holidays and I think I am being pursued because I am the most successful mountain biking business in the region.”

In a turn of events startlingly similar to those of British ski instructor Simon Butler over in Megeve, Jameson believes that he does have the correct qualifications to instruct and guide mountain bikers, and he’s been advised by his lawyers that the French action taken against him breaches EU laws.

We’ll follow the story and keep you posted, but in the meantime, does anyone in Morzine or Les Gets with similar qualifications as Alistair Jameson have anything to say? We’d like to hear from you…

An outdoor sports instructor, who spends a lot of time in Morzine, has been in touch with the following information…

“The situation with “trailAddiction” is being reported by the media as an unjustified attack on a British instructor, but the truth is that it is a British instructor attempted to get around the rules that are in place and well respected by every other instructor.

The recognised qualifications to guide in France is through the French system, or combining a top level UK mountain bike qualification (such as MBLA’s MBL) with the IML mountain qualification (International Mountain Leader) [this has been established in a previous court case]. This is because the terrain that the UK awards are assessed in is not even close to the standard that is present through the French mountains. The French quite rightly believe that to work in the mountains that you need trained and assessed in the environment as if an incident were to occur in the mountains it is very different from being in a UK cycle trail centre. The MBL allows the holder to operate in “remote” terrain (over 30mins from the road), however this is very different from operating in truly “remote” terrain such as the Scottish mountains. Almost every instructor who works in this terrain will also hold an ML (Mountain Leader) qualification, and 99% of the time those with the additional ML will be given preference by employers, as if it all goes wrong then the evidence of the instructors ability is clear. In the outdoor industry qualifications are the only real evidence; while there are ways around this it does not go down well when people do these, and it only works within 1 setup (if he came to me for work and said I have been guiding for 15 years, run my own business etc, I would ask for his qualifications irrelevant of whether he has set up his business  to avoid the need for them. No paperwork=no work).

This has been widely discussed in the outdoor community recently and the overwhelming view is that he is in the wrong. He is attempting to claim that his experience should allow him the need to undergo any assessment in terrain far above what he is qualified to work in. As the manager of an outdoor business in the UK I can tell you that any instructor who turned up with a non-UK award would be treated exactly the way the French are treating him.

A piece of paper doesn’t replace the need for experience, but experience doesn’t replace the need for the piece of paper. He needs to respect the system and if he has the knowledge required to operate safely in that environment then he should gain the correct qualification. While the IML takes time to gain it is not difficult and could provide a valuable 2nd income source to him.”

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