Angry protests over British instructors arrest
The arrest of 7 people in the French resort of Megeve has strongly divided opinion. Some are heavily critical of the French, while others say the instructors were teaching illegally and deserve to be prosecuted. PlanetSKI reports.
Saturday February 22, 2014 - Email this article to a friend
The seven people, who work for Simon Butler Skiing, were arrested last Tuesday in a carefully planned operation by the French authorities.
Three were kept in police cells overnight and all are to be charged with working without the correct qualifications.
A court case is scheduled for April 7th in Bonneville and they face a 3-month jail term if convicted.
For full details of their arrest see this earlier PlanetSKI story.
The issue has been covered extensively in the British press and even the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, has written on the subject for The Telegraph.
"The French continue to make it virtually impossible for a UK national to set up a ski school, in the French alps, to cater for the vast numbers of English speakers who flock there every winter," said the London Mayor in Sunday's article.
However the British Association of Snowsports Instructors, BASI, says there are some factual errors in the article and we understand it will be sending a clarification letter to Boris Johnson and The Telegraph.
UKIP has joined the debate too.
"The French authorities have schemed, bullied and harassed this innocent
man for years. They have made his life hell, putting him in court, in a cell
and eventually forced him to close his business. The French authority should be
ashamed for their actions," said UKIP deputy leader, Paul Nuttall.
"They have done everything to circumvent EU
regulations of recognising his qualifications - it is a simple case of French
protectionism and racism rolled into one," he added.
It has been covered widely across the newspapers, radio and television.
The PlanetSKI content editor, James Cove, was interviewed on the subject by BBC TV on Monday.
PlanetSKI on the BBC
"It is a complex issue and has provoked strong reaction from both sides, though there is a large amount of misinformation circulating with opinion dressed up as fact," said James Cove to BBC 1.
Some think the British instructors have been singled out and accuse the French of blatant protectionism.
"Are we, or are we not in the EU?"
"ESF are the mafia on snow for sure!!!
"This should be challenged."
These are just some of the comments we have received on the PlanetSKI Facebook page.
Others say the group of arrested instructors simply does not have the correct qualifications under French legislation and are therefore breaking the law.
"You are legally allowed to work in France with the correct qualification and paper work and always have been."
"A way to think of it is you would not consider a teaching assistant to be a teacher. There are some great teaching assistants and some are very capable of doing the job of the teacher, but they have not been through the training and the processes that a teacher has. If they want to be paid as a teacher then they need to take those qualifications!"
"This has been going on for years and years and every time the British press jump on the bandwagon inferring that there are no British ski teachers allowed to work in France - RUBBISH!"
"You have to have the equivalent of the French qualification which is a sports teaching degree! The British press never gets across the correct info about this subject!"
For further comments on our Facebook page then see here - it has provoked a strong reaction.
Simon Butler Skiing
There are around 350 British ski instructors who have the correct qualifications and do teach in France.
The qualifications have cost them time and money to obtain, and they are aggrieved when others teach without the correct paperwork in France.
The Telegraph is conducting an on-line poll that asks the questions "Do you support British ski instructors in France?"
It is a somewhat bizzare question as it does not differentiate between the instructors who were arrested and the hundreds who are fully-qualified and support the action of the French authorities.
For the record 88% have said YES and 12% NO, but the question is rather meaningless as asked.
Fully-qualified British instructors who work in France are actually asking people to vote NO.
So, what are the correct qualifications needed to teach in France?
The British Association of Snowsports Instructors, BASI, has 4 different levels.
Level 4 is the highest and this is what is needed to work independently in France.
It is possible to work in France with a Level Two or a Level Three but it requires a test technique to be passed and then that person has to work within a certified ski school and work through further qualifications.
They also need to obtain a French log book called a 'livret de formation'.
This is the process that all French nationals, as well as foreigners, have to undertake before being allowed to start an instructor apprenticeship.
The problems also arise as it is possible to work in other alpine countries with the lower levels than the Level Four.
Some therefore believe the French set the bar high to keep out foreigners, but it also keeps out their own nationals who do not meet the standard.
A British instructor can work in the UK on the slopes of Scotland with a Level 2 or Level 3 qualification and no additional exams, such as a test technique, need to be taken.
Incidently there are 5 ski resorts in Scotland and the snow is very good there at the moment.
Some therefore argue that this qualification to teach on snow in the UK should be recognised by France as it is a fellow EU member state.
The French though argue it is not an equivalent qualification. The key word is 'equivalent'.
A final adjudication will probably not be made unless the case goes to Brussels where an EU court would rule whether France should recognise the lower level British qualifications as equivalent.
Ultimately much of it probably boils down to the speed or technique test; whether the current tests are actuallly applicable to what the average ski instructor actually does, and who they teach.
The speed test required for the Level 4 qualification is not far off some of the levels that were seen at the Winter Olympics in Sochi last week.
The test is very, very hard to pass as the person has to get to within a small percentage of the time of an ex-racer.
It is another matter altogether, but some question whether it has any relevance to teaching holiday skiers.
Others point out that if it is so necessary to ski at that speed to instruct clients then why does it not have to be re-taken every few years to check the instructor is still up to scratch.
Many passed it decades ago and would be way off the mark now, and yet others currently miss out by fractions of a second and therefore fail and are unable to instruct in France.
Some liken it to whether a driving instructor needs to be able to drive almost as fast as a racing driver on a track.
Does the average holiday skier need a person who can race and are they remotely interested in the various levels?
Some would argue they want a person who can teach, rather than ski fast through a set of slalom gates.
As we said it is not quite as straight-forward as it is portrayed in the mainstream British press.
But then an anti-French story is easy to write and even easier to understand.
We'll let you know what happens on April 7th.
For a full and detailed explanation of the various grades and arguements involved then see this excellent article from Phil Smith who is a director of the company, Snowworks.
He is a fomer BASI trainer and well-respected in the industry. He lives and works in Tignes.
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