The End of Social Skiing in France?
For the past few decades, tens of thousands of British holiday skiiers have enjoyed the services of a 'ski host', a tour guide paid to show them the ups and downs of an unfamiliar resort. After the courts ruling this Monday, it appears this winter will be the last.
The problems began when French authorities in the Three Valleys teamed up with French national ski school ESF to take Le Ski to court, on the grounds that its ski hosts are not qualified under French law.
The directors and employees of Le Ski were joined by those of many other 'ski host' companies in anxiously awaiting the verdict. Larger companies such as Crystal Ski joined the resistance, attending a series of behind the scenes meeting with delegates from the ESF to ask them to withdraw the case.
The ESF refused, on the grounds that ski-hosting "contrary to the efforts being made in France by the resorts to reduce the number of accidents on the slopes." The court ruled in their favour on Monday, establishing a precedent that will prevent the practice of ski hosting in future. The verdict has hit the companies which offer this service, their employees and customers hard.
Nick Morgan, co-founder of Le Ski, has not given up the fight. He told PlanetSKI: “As we expected the court in Albertville has taken the side of the locals and the protectionist agenda of the French ski schools (ESF). We will be appealing and the case now goes to a court in Chambery. The fight goes on and we will take this all the way.”
In France, to lead a group on the slopes and be paid for it you need to either be a top-level instructor or training to be an instructor with an official French snowsports school.This law is fully consistent with the recent verdict and shields the ESF from accusations of protectionism, alleging that the ESF are sabotaging the competition.
Le Ski, and other organisations which offer Ski Hosts argue that these rules are not applicable to Ski Hosts. Ski Hosts do not take their groups on to black runs or off-piste and they do not offer any instruction. They act as a holiday rep, rather than a teacher, showing guests around the town, restaurants and apres-ski activities as well as the best slopes. They even refer to the holiday option as 'social skiing'.
Many disgruntled employees and customers are threatening to take their business and custom elsewhere, to one of the many other countries in Europe with high-level skiing and less stringent laws. There is no doubt that this event holds great significance for British skiing in France.