Tour operator ski hosting banned

21st February 2013, by Dave Watts

This week a court in Albertville ruled that ski hosting provided by UK tour operator Le Ski was illegal according to French law because it is illegal for someone to be paid to lead or guide groups around the mountain unless they are a fully qualified ski instructor or guide. This was widely seen as a test case that will determine the future of ski hosting provided by many ski tour operators to France.

Le Ski MD Nick Morgan said ‘We are disappointed, but not surprised, that the local court has found us to be in breach of the law.  We are appealing this decision and will submit our legitimate arguments to the Court of Appeals. In our view, the Albertville ruling is protectionist and contrary to European Union law. We are frustrated that our guests, who have enjoyed free ski hosting for 30 years, are temporarily unable to benefit from this very popular service.’

Le Ski, along with many other ski tour operators including Crystal, Thomson and Skiworld have suspended their ski hosting in French resorts pending the appeal being heard.

Marion Telsnig, PR Manager for Crystal Ski, said ‘Two of our ski escorting staff in France were stopped and questioned in January and we have suspended ski guiding until further notice. We notified our clients and some have already said that they will go to Austria instead to benefit from the service they value highly (we are continuing to offer ski escorting outside France).’

Nick Morgan from Le Ski went on to say ‘The ESF head office and ESF Meribel have supported this case and damages have been awarded by the local court for loss of earnings. So I’m very unhappy with a statement issued on behalf of the ESF which asserts that they stand to make no financial gain from this action. This is misleading because the Albertville court has awarded damages, despite the fact that our guests will not ask ESF ski instructors to show them round our resorts and find the best routes.’

Morgan says that they have been getting massive support from British skiers on their Facebook and other sites and some people have been pledging money to help with the cost of the appeals.  So he is now considering setting up a fighting fund which people can contribute to and help with the cost of the appeals and associated publicity about the case. We think that many WTSS readers will want to contribute because in a recent poll we found that 74% of respondents said that the ESF had no right to interfere with ski hosting.

Our view remains that it is totally crazy for the ESF to be claiming that UK tour op ski hosting loses them business. Hosts do not teach and do not take clients off-piste. They just show people around the pistes and provide guests with the opportunity of enjoying social skiing with a group of like minded fellow guests – a service that very few would pay ski school prices for.

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