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French Ski Schools Kick British Tour Guides Off the Piste

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I am personally rather disgusted with the (ESF) French Ski Ski School Association's decision to outlaw tour operators offering a free ski guiding service.

I did that job over six years years in Canada, USA and more solidly in Austria. It's a bloody disgrace what the ski schools are doing and what they are insinuating about the guides. The tour operators are merely looking out for their guests, offering them the best service possible in their holiday package.

Despite being a qualified instructor, I didn't teach my guests, simply had them follow me to the best places to go on the mountains. This was an invaluable service to people whose families were split by some going to ski school, kindergarten etc. One parent/older child could ski with a group of people for free and enjoy a good group atmosphere without paying ski school for the experience.

Whilst working for a leading British tour operator as a resort rep (and I was qualified to teach after doing my qualification in Austria merely as something to have), I spent a couple of days a week on organised excursions where we would offer to take guests on a simple introduction to the resort runs to away days to other resorts covered by their ski pass. When guiding my guests around the Austrian resorts, the ski schools were never a problem - in fact I also worked for them on my rare days off. None of the guests were expecting to be taught, just to be able to explore a resort and have fun. If we had any injuries, the emergency services were only a phone call away. Throughout my time, I had one person in a group have a small accident and I went above and beyond the call of duty to look after her - something that your average 18-year-old, first year at a French ski school teacher would not have done.

And where does 'guiding' stop? As holiday reps, we lived in the resort and knew the best places to go. From organised pub crawls ('resort orientation' as it was known in the more classy resorts!) to simply suggesting which runs/bars/sandwich shops/supermarkets are the best places to go to enjoy your holiday, the punters expect the reps to know the score. And more importantly, make their already rather pricey holiday a bit cheaper and not having to pay the ski school for their guiding service

I am going away to Mayrhofen in the Ziller Valley in Austria next week with a group of around 10 friends. I lived and ski guided there for a winter (and then summer) season. If this were a French resort, would I not be allowed to show my friends around? Would I have to shell out for a guide to show me around an area I already know and want to show my friends?

I understand and completely agree with 'off-piste' and heliskiing guiding being done only through qualified guides as they are where the punter (sorry, customer!) is literally taking their life in their hands and going somewhere where more specialised training is need to cope with injury and the dreaded avalanche scenarios. But, on piste, within good intermediate runs (where you have explained at your initial welcome meeting and upon greeting the guests in the morning at the lift, that they should all be of a good standard), the guests will be in no danger. Apart form maybe trusting the guide when they suggest a warming JagaTee to avoid the lift queues back down to the village!

Again, nobody is forcing people to join an organised ski group offered by their tour operator but forcing them to pay for the services of a local ski school and therefore possibly making the holiday less appealing in the first place could lead to less bookings and threaten the tourism industry in the long run.

I've always lived by the belief that skiing is the most sociable individual sport and guiding/'hosting' is a very important service for tour operators (of all nations) to be able to offer!

Rant over!

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