You may have heard the for-oar last year about the French banning the likes of helpful chalet guides offering assistance to competence skiers regarding routes. Well I’m sad to report that the appeal heard at a 2 hour hearing today in front of a panel of 3 appeal court judges in Chambery on 2nd July was unsuccessful. The court did uphold part of the appeal referring to Le Ski’s insurance policy which it confirmed did cover the company for ski hosting. The court also substantially reduced the amount of damages which had been awarded to the Ecole du Ski Français (ESF).
On 5th Sept 2014 Le Ski has today instructed their lawyer to submit an appeal to the supreme court in Paris regarding the ski hosting case.The argument continues…
What is the argument?
- Ski hosting, ski escorting, or social skiing is when guests are shown around the resort, usually by an employee of their chalet, hotel or tour operator. The guest doesn’t need to look at the map every few minutes, can be taken to the best pistes for the time of day and conditions, and gets the chance to ski with a small group – particularly valuable for people on holiday alone, or couples or groups of mixed ability. There is no instruction given.
- Some French civil servants and teachers are exempt from holding a qualification, so Le Ski claim that the ruling is discriminatory, and therefore unjustifiable under EU law.
- ESF’s argument is about safety. Although hosts don’t give any ski instruction, the guest may still consider them to be responsible for the safety of the group. ESF argue that therefore the host should be qualified.
How do I legally use British skiing advice?
Ok, so you might think that turning to clubs, such as the British Ski Club maybe still good to do as they are a group of individuals with a shared passion who are prepared to share their experience, joined in membership of a club. But no, you’d be wrong there too, well at least to an extent.
Well, a Ski Club Leader was stopped on the piste in Val d’Isere in April this year and will be required to attend a preliminary investigative hearing. The Ski Club are providing legal representation and complying fully with the authorities, but unfortunately under French law it is the individual in the dock, and not the Ski Club
But Ski Club Leaders offer a hosting service, but the Leaders are not paid – they are volunteers; this makes the situation different from the Le Ski case. Leaders undertake a two-week training course, and receive expenses during their on-snow leading slots. French law does allow for legitimate expenses, and so this is the case that will be argued. The initial hearing was due to take place in Albertville on Monday 1st September has been deferred until Monday 8th December 2014. So again we wait to hear the outcome.
Therefore, in France the Ski Club will have Ambassadors (not Leaders) for this season. They can advise on itineraries and book guides, introduce members to each other, and meet up with members for lunch and after skiing. There will be Ambassadors in all of the 11 French resorts where there were previously leaders: Alpe d’Huez, Avoriaz, Courchevel, Flaine, La Plagne, Les Arcs, Meribel, Tignes, Val d’Isere, Val Thorens and here in Argentiere,
Well of course we waitng to hear the results of the cases and appeals mentioned above, but t’s not only snowsports instructors who are affected. In early August 2014 a mountain biking instructor who teaches in the Alps was issued with a letter that formally forbids him to instruct. He has the highest level British qualification but it is considered inadmissible by the local prosecutor because his examination did not take place in France. He risks one year imprisonment and€15,000 fine if he carries on teaching.
Although no statement about the mountain bike instructor, according to the statement of the French Embassy, a new system will be introduced shortly: “The UK, France and nine other member states have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to create a professional card for European ski instructors. The first professional cards are expected to be issued in 2014/2015. This will go a long way to helping standardise practice for ski instructors while also helping to guarantee the sort of professional teaching everyone should be free to enjoy”. The MoU stipulates that the instructor would be exempt from the Eurotest if they held 100 FIS points in alpine skiing for men, or 85 FIS points for women.
So ski hosting in its current form will need to change if all hosts were required to have the high-level qualifications that allow them to instruct in France.