Updated 21 September 2013:
Crystal have teamed up with ski school Evolution 2 to offer social skiing on Sundays in 11 French resorts - more here via Where To Ski And Snowboard. The Telegraph points out that the ban is still in place (these outings will be led by qualified instructors), and that Le Ski still plan to appeal. Meanwhile, We Love To Ski say that this appeal will take place in November, but also note that this marks a broader shift away from the ESF, widely seen as having instigated/supported the ban in the first place. These social skiing excursions sit alongside a broader agreement, with Crystal having now made Evolution 2 their preferred ski school partner.
Updated 10 March 2013:
Here's a perspective from the Good Ski Guide asking people taking a "this is outrageous" view on the subject to think again.
And here is an update from the Telegraph - the British tour operators plan to respond, but are waiting until they have seen the written judgement.
This week saw the Albertville court rule that "ski hosting" - as practised by against British tour operator Le Ski (alongside many larger operators) - is not allowed under French law. This is the practice where guests are shown around the slopes by an employee of the holiday company.
Le Ski, backed by the big tour companies, argues that this practice is complementary to the service offered by the ski schools. Guests are only taken on blues and reds, and no instruction is given.
The ruling appears to have fallen short of the French law saying that it is "illegal to teach, lead, guide or animate without an appropriate professional qualification".
Here is a summary of the background to the case, and here, via @hautealtitude, is the ESF's full statement (NB made by a different Simon Atkinson - he is Director of ESF in La Rosiere).
It does feel like the ESF is distancing itself slightly from the affair over the last week - they had certainly been seen as "the instigators" of the court action previously. This is a pretty unconvincing line, I have to say. Le Dauphiné, for example, is pretty clear that the case was brought by the Meribel ESF. Indeed, the France3 Alpes TV station finds the press release "astonishing": "Is the ESF worried about losing its British clients?". The ski schools have a lot to lose, it says.
Today's Telegraph picks up on the story with why France is wrong to ban ski hosts, authored by BASI-qualified Julian Sambles. He underlines the role the ski hosts can play in boosting local trade and building loyalty towards the resorts.
This is not a new issue, it seems. This week @skigrimentz shared a link to a Peter Hardy Telegraph article from 2001, with Le Ski in the spotlight again. The Hardy article tracks the issue back to the 1970s.
All in all, it's pretty depressing. The whole debate might be more "fun" if the ESF were a proper villain, with wealthy instructors swanning around in their 4X4s, without needing to work for the rest of year. It's not long since the ESF in Les Arcs was taken to court (in Albertville...) for age discrimination. This case was all about the rights and wrongs of not allowing older instructors to work during certain weeks in the low season, with the subtext being there is simply not enough work to go round. The latest (November 2012) development saw a landslide vote, from 95% of ski instructors, to "reduce the activities of moniteurs aged over 62" to ensure that young people are able to come into the profession, as opposed to keeping their skis "on their shoulders".
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runs straight ahead...
What to make of it all? There are clearly two sides, and there are some very real issues about safety in the mountains that do need to be emphasised. But...it's hard to see this as anything other than an own goal by the ESF. Reports (spotted by @skigrimentz) of les pulls rouges in Morzine offering "a tour of the piste, no teaching, 34€) are unlikely to improve matters. Anyone who reads the "ski press" in the UK (aka the Saturday travel supplements) will see endless stories about which (English speaking) ski school is best in Val d'Isere, which holiday company offers the best child-care deals etc etc. This just adds to the sense that the ESF are remote, dinosaurs, leave your children up the mountain, stop for fag breaks. And so on.
In my experience, the reality is rather different. The ESF's teaching of kids (a brutal exam every Friday...) may well be up Michael Gove's street, but is perhaps not everyone's cup of tea. But the ESF instructors all speak excellent English, are often locals who can tell you lots about the area and - of course - are always skiers par excellence who love what they do. It just feels like such a shame. And something which could have been avoided.
So, I'm finding it hard to disagree with the excellent @adepierrefeu, who says:
"It's difficult not to see in the actions of the ESF a protectionism and a real sense of being out of touch with client demands. It's the whole of the French ski industry which is going to be affected by this. We should remember that our Austrian friends - who tolerate ski hosting - are still growing their market share. This is not something which can be fixed by a flashmob!"*
*For more on the ill-fated ESF "flashmob", click here.