Right, you lot. You can stop looking forward to that nice holiday you planned to spend showing friends round your favourite French ski resort. Don’t you realise that what you’re doing is horrifically dangerous? Really, how could you possibly imagine that you are in any way capable of pootling around a few blue runs and eating lunch in a convivial manner without killing yourself and everyone with you? God, you’re so irresponsible.
Or so last week’s court judgement in Albertville would have you believe. Following a case brought by the French authorities egged on by the ESF in Meribel, tour operator staff will no longer be allowed to ski about the pistes with their punters, on the grounds that it isn’t safe and they aren’t qualified to be responsible for said punters. Since there is no real difference between this and you showing your mates around, I think you should be worried.
This has been a long running and increasingly tedious argument led largely by the French national ski school, which seems to think people are going to pay for its instructors to ski around the resort, chat to them and eat lunch. Which clearly they are not, when all they want is an animated piste map, preferably with the odd social skill as a bonus.
It’s presumably because this argument is so blatantly fallacious that they’ve started going on about safety instead, though as far as I can see they have completely failed to demonstrate that a load of overweight British holidaymakers cruising around the marked runs with someone wearing a jacket with a logo on it is any more or less dangerous than me spending the afternoon sliding about with three barely intermediate friends on their annual half term break.
In fact, if we’re going to insist that anyone who ever skis with anyone else has a certificate which says that they once did a slalom course to near-olympic standard when they were 17, the Compagnie des Alpes needs to start looking at developing marmot sanctuaries, because running ski resorts is going to be a non-starter as a business model.
Fortunately for general common sense I predict that the whole ski hosting/social skiing/whatever we’re calling it this week will carry on as usual, since even in totalitarian France nobody has the power to stop persons A B and C inviting person D to ski with them even if person D does happen to work for the company with which they are on holiday. Person D is entirely at liberty to ski with whomsoever he pleases in his free time in the middle of the day and he clearly isn’t wearing the company’s uniform, so piss off. The fact that it has been made clear to him on training that he is expected to ski with his guests three times a week is something which is never likely to come to anybody’s notice. Which brings us right back to the position we were all in when I did my first season back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and we were all wearing tight pants and Nevica jackets.
In the meantime though, there is bound to be a bit of fallout, during which various people will be inconvenienced while various others take advantage.
The losers ….
The ESF, which will lose whatever private lesson business the ski hosts used to put their way, since part of the host’s role was always to say (in the nicest possible way, obviously), “your skiing’s rubbish mate, get a lesson”.
The ESF, as every tour op which has the option scrambles to recommend any other ski school they can find just because they’re feeling narked by the whole situation.
The ESF, which is quite likely to find itself with rather fewer English customers as people vote with their feet and either holiday elsewhere or just book with different ski schools.
French resorts, which stand to lose business to countries where you can ski with whoever you like. We should bear in mind that this doesn’t just affect UK tour ops – the Belgians, Dutch, Scandis and eastern Europeans provide just the same service to their guests. That pretty much accounts for all of our non-French visitors here.
And the winners are ….
Resorts outside France, which will score for some more punters as those people for whom the ski hosting days are an important part of the holiday opt for Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Andorra, North America, Bulgaria ……… etc. It’s entirely possible that TOs could consider either pulling out of French resorts altogether or at least significantly reducing their presence here. It’s not like France has a monopoly on wintersports is it?
The ESF in Meribel, which has rather bafflingly been awarded something in the region of 20,000€ for ‘loss of earnings’. Though in view of losers one to three above, this could be regarded as something of a Pyrrhic victory.
A bunch of lawyers, since it seems likely that the case will go from appeal in France to further appeal in Brussels or Strasbourg or wherever they do these things.
So that was a really worthwhile exercise then. Well done Les Pulls Rouges, way to convince everyone they’re going to love skiing in France.