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French authorities examine leading by Ski Club GB
Tuesday April 22, 2014 - Email this article to a friend

One of its ski leaders was stopped by police in Val d'Isere this month and has been summoned to appear before legal officials. It follows a French clampdown on ski hosting and a recent court case against a British ski instructor.

A Ski Club of Great Britain leader, Ken Piddlesden, was stopped on April 8th while skiing with Club members on the slopes of Val d'Isere.

We understand another Ski Club leader was questioned on the slopes by the authorities in Val d'Isere back in February.

Sources have told us that in the latest incident the Leader was on piste at the time and he was pressed by the police about his qualifications and the role he was undertaking.

Members in the group were asked if he was being paid.

After questioning he was allowed to continue but has been summoned to appear before the legal authorities in Albertville in September.

They will be examining the exact role of Ski Club leaders.

It is unclear if he will be there in person, but the Ski Club will be legally represented and it is currently seeks legal counsel.

The Ski Club GB says it is complying with the authorities fully.

If the Ski Club is found to have committed an offence under French law it would be very serious for the organisation.

The Leading service is one of its major member benefits and France is the most popular country for British skiers and snowboarders.

Leaders show members round the slopes, both on and off piste, but do not offer instruction.

They undertake a 2-week training course and are graded according to their ability and experience. Only the top-level Leaders are sent to Val d'Isere and similar resorts.

The Ski Club of Great Britain is a not-for-profit organisation and its leaders are unpaid volunteers. 

In recent years there has been a clampdown by the French legal authorities on people that guide others round the ski slopes, or teach, to ensure they have the correct qualifications.

Under Article 212-1 of the French Code du Sport it is a legal requirement to have the full ski teaching qualification to instruct, lead or guide skiing groups if remuneration is received.

The key word here is 'remuneration'.

The Ski Club of Great Britain argues that its leaders are not paid and therefore do not fall into the category.

"Further to previously sought independent legal advice, from a locally-based French lawyer, in relation to the aforementioned law and the Club's adherence to this law, it is the Club's understanding that its Leader programme fully complies with all French laws and regulations," said a statement from the Ski Club of Great Britain that was issued to PlanetSKI when we asked the organisation about the incident.

"The Ski Club GB will only ever operate its ski leading programme in the full knowledge that it is both safe and also fully compliant with (local) laws within any of the countries/jurisdictions of its programmes," it added.

Although the leaders are unpaid volunteers they receive certain benefits such as free lift passes, accommodation/food and help towards travel costs.

Some argue that this is the same as remuneration however under French law legitimate expenses are allowed.

It is this issue that will no doubt be examined by the French authorities when they consider the matter in Albertville in September.

The case is being described as "a preliminary investigative hearing".

It is the latest in a number of incidents as the French authorities seek to enforce its rules on ski teaching and guiding. 

It is not just the British that are being checked but also French nationals and people from other countries.

Last year a court in France banned ski hosting by British tour operators as we reported at the time on PlanetSKI.  An appeal will be heard shortly.

"The Ski Club GB has been monitoring the outcome of the hosting ban case on an on-going basis and has regularly sought legal advice in relation to its own Leader programme," said The Ski Club GB.

Since the February incident, and now the April one, the Leader programme of the Ski Club GB has continued for the season in France and will end as planned on 26th April 2014.

The Ski Club GB has contacted all its other leaders to inform them of the situation.

However a group of Leaders in the neighbouring resort of Tignes has said it does not wish to offer the service to members while there is uncertainty in the air and they are threatened with being questioned by the local police.

"The Leaders in Tignes have decided that they would prefer not to continue leading on snow for the time being and the Club respects and supports their decision to offer assistance to the members, arrange ski groups and continue with social hours for the last part of the season," said a statement from the Club sent to all its other Leaders.

Last month a British ski instructor, Simon Butler, appeared in court in Bonneville accused of teaching without the correct qualifications - see that story here.

He faces a hefty fine and a jail sentence if found guilty.

The Ski Club incident in Val d'Isere happened the day after the court case of Simon Butler.

Here at PlanetSKI we will be following all the separate court cases and legal rulings over the summer months.

Under examinationUnder examination








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