The practice of UK-based ski tour operators showing their clients around slopes at French resorts has been banned.
It has been custom and practice for a number of years for UK tour operators at European ski resorts to provide their clients with a complimentary tour of the slopes as part of a familiarisation service that also includes the local restaurants and bars. However, despite the fact that no ski instruction is included on such tours and the most advanced slopes are avoided, the French authorities have now ruled that the practice compromises safety.
A court in Albertville ruled on Monday that French law demands that only qualified ski instructors can lead organised groups of skiers on the slopes. The company that was taken to court for the test case was UK-based Le Ski, although the involvement of the ESF national ski school in bringing the charges has raised accusations that the move is motivated more by French protectionism than any genuine safety issue.
Police on the slopes at the popular resort of Meribel apprehended a Le Ski host, telling him that his actions were illegal and that he was to report to the police in Courcheval.
The founder of Le Ski, Nick Morgan, said that his company will appeal the ruling and was quoted in the Daily Mail, saying, ‘As we expected, the court in Albertville has taken the side of the locals and the protectionist agenda of the 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. We are determined to carry on and we are not prepared to see British ski hosting outlawed. By taking the British on in this way the French Authorities, and the ESF, have created a problem where there really wasn’t one.’
The director of the French ski instructors’ union, Jean-Marc Simon, responded in the report, saying, ‘This is purely about ski safety. We cannot have unqualified people taking groups of skiers around the mountain. We did not instigate this investigation, but as people responsible for mountain safety we must support the authorities.’