Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ski guiding judgement due on 19th February

Today's local newspaper, Le Dauphine, reports that a date for judgement in the Le Ski/Meribel ski guiding case has been set for 19th February. The case has been brought against Nicholas Morgan, co-owner of Le Ski,a tour operator in Meribel, in the Tribunal Correctional in Albertville.

The prosecution  has cited the 'Code du Sport' (everything in France is governed by a legal 'code', such as Code Commercial, Code Criminel etc.) which states:

"Anyone who provides for money any type of ski teaching or training activity must hold a relevant qualification (i.e. a diploma or licence)"

During the courts deliberations there has been much debate over whether ski guiding (or "accompagnement")  can be classed as 'teaching', but the prosecution has insisted on a strict interpretation of the Code, and claims that ski guiding activities are against the spirit, as well as the letter, of the law.  The vice-procureur, effectively chairman of the tribunal, is quoted as hammering home the following point:

" This judgement is eagerly awaited by all tour operators and ski resorts because it has huge economic implications. A ski area is specific type of environment where risks are always present, and this justifies the need for a qualification, whether for guiding, teaching or organising events."

If found guilty Nicholas Morgan faces a fine of €15,000 and/or 3 months in prison (suspended sentence). He will also be judged for failing to properly register his employees with the French authorities, a charge he doesn't deny.

ESF Arc 1600 - no guiding troubles here, yet...
I have my own views on this matter which are different from a lot of the French-bashing, anti-ESF rants that have appeared in other publications and blogs. But I will wait until the judgement is published. However, there is nothing new about this debate; it's being grumbling along for over 20 years, especially in Meribel where they are hot on this kind of thing.

The ESF there has already lost a lot of market-share to 'foreign' (albeit properly qualified)  ski schools, and with a big decrease in British people booking any kind of skiing lessons since 2008 and the general downturn in the ski industry, it's perhaps not surprising that  this affair has finally come to court.

Whatever the judgement  is on February 19th it will form part of French jurisprudence (case-law) and be binding on all such future instances.

Once this matter is resolved once and for all, let's hope tour-operators, ski schools and resorts can enter into some sensible dialogues about providing services that enhance people's enjoyment of this 'specific type of environment' without risk but with maximum pleasure and in an economically-sustainable context for the local population.

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