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Ski Club GB suspends Leading service in France
Tuesday July 1, 2014 - Email this article to a friend

One of its leaders was stopped last April in Val d'Isere and is set to appear in court in September. He was showing Club members round the slopes. The development is a severe blow for the Club. PlanetSKI reports.

Ken Piddlesden, was stopped on April 8th and questioned by the local police.

It followed an earlier incident in February when another Leader was stopped and questioned in Val d'Isere.

Mr Piddlesden will appear in court to answer questions that he did not have the correct qualification to take people round the slopes under Article L.212-1 of the French Code du Sport.

Pending the outcome of the court case, and following legal advice, the Ski Club of Great Britain has decided to suspend all its Leader programmes in France.

We reported in the incident at the time on PlanetSKI.

"It is disappointing we've had to temporarily withdraw the On Snow service in France, but we are committed to protecting the Leading service. In the meantime, the Club will continue to ensure you (members) can still meet and ski together in resort and enjoy the benefits of being part of the UK's biggest skiing community," said the chief executive of the Ski Club, Frank McCusker.

Here at PlanetSKI we understand the Club fears it may be found guilty, but is likely to appeal to a higher court.

It is a severe blow to The Club and its members though a service will still be offered in the resort with Leaders re-named 'Ambassadors' and they will offer verbal advice on the resort and host social events.

However for the members, who are all keen skiers and snowboarders, it is most definitely not the same.

4,000 people out of its 30,000 membership ski with the Leaders in resort and it is seen as the unique selling point of the Club.

The Club goes to 11 resorts in France including most of the major ones; Alpe d'Huez, Argentiere, Avoriaz, Courchevel, Flaine, La Plagne, Les Arcs, Meribel, Tignes, Val d'Isere and Val Thorens.

It will continue to offer the service in 19 ski resorts in other countries but a large part of the programme, in the country most popular with the British, will not be on offer.

There was initially no promient mention of the news on the web site of the Ski Club of Great Britain, but it has since been made more visible. An e-mail has been sent to members.

Leaders take members of the Club round the slopes both on and off piste.

They undertake a 2-week training programme, run in Tignes in France in December, but do not have any professionally recognised qualifications.

There are 250 active Leaders and 30-40 pass the course each winter.

Overall the safety record is good but there was a fatality in Verbier in 2007 in an off piste incident.

The Leader involved was later cleared of any wrong-doing.

Ski Club LeadersSki Club Leaders











The questioning of the Ski Club Leader and the planned court case is seen by some as the continuing attack on British skiers in France as the ski hosting service offered by the Tour Operators was found to be illegal in 2013. 

An appeal will be held on Tuesday of  this week.

Last month a British ski instructor, Simon Butler, was found guilty of teaching without the correct paperwork and was sentenced to a €30,000 fine or a 200-day jail term; see here for that story.

We understand that the Ski Club feels it is part of a concerted move by French authorities against the British holiday skier.

Others feel it the French authorities tightening up on activities that are against the Law and creating a level playing-field for all.

"The Ski Club is fully behind the Leader and has appointed a local lawyer who is well aware of the challenges involved and is currently representing UK tour operators in relation to the ski hosting ban," said a statement from The Club.

"The Club will only ever operate its ski leading programme in the knowledge that it is both safe and also fully compliant with local laws within any of the countries and jurisdictions of its programmes. The Club continues to believe the ski leading programme satisfies both these condition."

So, what is the detail of the case?

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 back in April.

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.

The case could have significant consequnces in France as many other sports clubs, from archery to kayaking, are covered by Article 212-1 of the French Code du Sport.  If the Ski Club is not alowed to claim legitimate expenses to offer club services then what about the other clubs?

The stakes are high not just for the UK-based Ski Club of Great Britain.

There has already been some reaction over on the PlanetSKI Facebook page.

"I think it was Inevitable, the difference between chalet ski hosts and ski club leaders was not that great, no matter how the ski club dressed it up," said one PlanetSKI reader.

Ski Club members have also reacted on its web site.

"This is one of the most serious threats to the club I have experienced in 30 years of being a Member/Leader/Rep and Winter Arrangements comity member. I have many questions regarding the decision of the club to withdraw from leading in France, when I believe no knew French laws have been created. We should not be responding to unproven challenges to our service until such time that a legal challenge has run it's full course and been held against us. Ambassador status will not help our club!" said one.

"I don't think the Club had any other choice but to introduce the Ambassador role during the current impasse with the Savoyarde gendarmerie & the Prefecture. It's not fair to expose a leader to potential personal legal proceedings and prosecution under the code penal, when there is the slightest possibility that the "volunteer" status of the leader role is open to legal attack, what with the Val D'Isere incident last April. The new role is a fair interim measure until a court makes a decision," said another.

Here at PlanetSKI we will bring you more news and reaction so do check back for further updates.

Suspended in FranceSuspended in France







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