Ex-Pat News

UPDATED: An end to ski hosting?

They’ve been battling it out in the courts for quite a while…  But today a French court ruled that British tour operators are no longer allowed to use ski hosts to guide their clients on the slopes.

In a test case heard today in Albertville, the French authorities and the ESF took ‘Le Ski’, a small British ski operator from the Three Valleys to court over the issue, claiming that safety is compromised when holidaymakers are shown around the ski area by unqualified ski guides. Even though in most cases no instruction is given and the service offered is more of an orientation to the local ski area, ski hosting in France has been banned. Although Le Ski intend to appeal against the ruling, it means that ski guiding can now only be offered by fully qualified ski or snowboard instructors.

In the words of Nick Morgan, co-founder of Le Ski…

“As we expected the court in Albertville has taken the side of the locals and the protectionist agenda of the ESF. We will be appealling and the case now goes to a court in Chambery. The fight goes on and we will take this all the way”

UPDATE – Here’s the response from Simon Atkinson, Director of the ESF:

“ESF has incorrectly been cited as being the organisation for taking the Le Ski to court for its own protectionism. It should be stressed that ESF has not brought the action in the French courts, but the Public Ministry’s (French Administration) did so in pursuing action against Le Ski for non-compliance with French regulations, after a Border Police Patrol Control found them to be contravening French law.

Under Article L.212-1 of the Sport Code in France, it is legal requirement to have a qualification to teach or lead skiing if remuneration is received.

The laws governing sport in France say that it is illegal to ‘teach, lead, guide, animate’ without an appropriate professional qualification. For professionals, and in particular for ESF, security on ski slopes is of paramount importance. Wintersports touring needs to be conducted with maximum security for those being escorted on the slopes with qualified guides/instructors. France recognises the equivalent professional qualifications for instructors and guides from other countries. Any qualified ski instructor and guide is allowed to operate in France and there is cooperation between European Ski Schools, so the qualifications obtained are to reach the European standards terms of certification. Certificates to operate officially are issued directly by the Ministry of Sports.

ESF will not receive any re-numeration as a result of this judgement other than its legal fees being paid for representing them as a “Civil Party” and importantly, ESF has never sought otherwise. The fine required by the Public Ministry to Le Ski is factored upon an infringement of law and missing Social Taxes to be paid on such activity. Contrary to some opinion, there is no financial gain to ESF.

This is not an ESF led court action, but the organisation has rightly shown its support for French law to be upheld and that for those organisations using hosting or other personnel to ‘guide’ such people must possess a valid qualifications to do so.

ESF is committed to ensuring the safety of UK tourists using French resorts for wintersports.

ESF reiterates its commitment to supporting the UK ski industry and will work with UK tour operators in finding workable solutions for lawful guiding on the French ski slopes”.

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