There has recently been a lot of controversy about ski guiding. In March 2013 a court case involving Le Ski and the Ecole de Ski Francais effectively outlawed ski hosting unless the guide was a qualified instructor who had passed the rigorous Euro Test which involves taking a timed slalom.
How quickly a guide can complete this test is something many have said isn’t relevant for guiding people down a mountain safely.
Below is our own take on some of the most commonly asked questions about this issue.
Q. I’ve heard that ski guiding has been outlawed in France – so how can you still be offering it?
We are extremely sorry for the Tour Operators affected. When guiding is taken safely it’s a fun experience which has always been an integral part of the whole ski package. Unfortunately, a number of rogue guides have made it bad for the rest. Consequently the French needed to get tough, this has been at the expense of all reputable operators.
Our first ski guide was Michel himself. He worked on the mountain rescue team – so guiding days couldn’t have been safer or more fun. As Snowbizz grew, we eventually had three British BASI instructors working as full-time guides. The camaraderie created was fantastic and the fun would continue long after the lifts had closed.
Guiding – The big debate continues
Many other tour operators employed BASI guides but they didn’t come cheap. So, even reputable companies took on advanced skiers, who could be brilliant ski hosts but had no qualifications. Naturally, many rogue guides managed to sneak in – and it’s this, and nothing else, which we believe has caused the problems with the French.
This is a huge contentious issue and the debate will rage again this winter. But all of us involved in skiing can tell you countless horror stories about dodgy guides. My two personal best /worst are the guide who didn’t even realize he’d lost a guest off-piste, until the man turned up, still in ski boots, just in time for dinner or the guided group of beginners who ended up in a river. Fortunately in both those cases no-one came to any harm. But eventually something had to happen.
For safety reasons alone, the French decided that any form of ski leading on their mountains could only be done by instructors who had passed their Euro test or ‘equivalence’. Many argue that it’s an ESF ploy to make more money by blocking foreign instructors. We ourselves think, something needed to be done, but not at the expense of losing so many great BASI instructors –it’s just terrible waste of talent. Whatever your beliefs, the backlash is hitting the ESF hard and it will be interesting to see any developments over this winter.
Snowbizz ski – guiding on and off-piste
We were lucky – we already had our own ski school. So our guiding is still fun, it’s still free. But it’s now done by our own instructors who are fully qualified to the top level. This means they are not only legal but they can take our guests off-piste too. In Puy that’s really important as we have some amazing off-piste over the back of the mountain in the valley of Narreyroux.
But equally we have some gentle off-piste through the forest which is suitable for beginners and children. The kids love it as has lots of little bumps and jumps but isn’t frightening. We also do a picnic there once a week.
Added to all this we also run a weekly timed slalom, boarder cross competition and a family guiding afternoon. But the most popular event of all is just for the children: a torchlight descent which is guaranteed to give the waiting parents goose-bumps as they watch their little skiers snake through the forest with their lanterns.