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Tuesday April 4, 2017 - Email this article to a friend

The Supreme Court in Paris has upheld the decision of a lower court that the ski guiding service offered by the British tour operators is illegal. Le Ski blames it on Brexit. UPDATED

It is the latest in a long-running legal case that saw the British operator, Le Ski, fined for offering ski guiding to its clients.

It was a service offered by most of the UK tour operators in France and was widely used across the French Alps by tens of thousands of British holiday skiers.

The Supreme Court announced its decision in the French capital earlier this week.

Now Le Ski has reacted to the court ruling.

"We are extremely disappointed that the French Supreme Court rejected our pleas based on EU law, as, in our view, it is unjustifiable on safety grounds that only fully qualified ski instructors may show clients a winter resort," said the managing director of Le Ski, Nick Morgan.

"In particular it is disturbing that no relevance was given to the fact that French civil servants, teachers, members of the armed forces and all volunteers are exonerated from any qualification requirement to lead on ski slopes. It is also disturbing that no relevance was given to the fact that British tour operators' ski hosting over the past decades has never been proven to have caused an accident or other proven risk to skiers' safety," he added.

"We are therefore under no illusion that 2 crucial elements contributed hugely to this decision: firstly,   Looming Brexit - why should the French judiciary uphold our pleas based on EU law or refer the matter to the European Court, as clearly requested, when our country voted to leave the EU?

Secondly the current political and electoral climate in France shows that anti-European parties have the sympathy of almost half of the electorate.

This decision, and its consequences for British skiers in Europe, is yet another result of the UK's vote on 23rd June 2016."

Under Article L.212-1 of the Sport Code in France it is a legal requirement to have a qualification to teach or lead skiing if remuneration is received.

The French authorities, in conjunction with the ESF national ski school, singled out a small British operator in Les3Vallees, Le Ski, and took it to court claiming its ski hosts were not properly qualified under French law.

We have reported at length on the case - see here for our last story with links to all the background.

And see here for our story on the original legal decision that was made back in 2013.

Le Ski is now considering the judgement and taking into account the Brexit vote in the UK on June 23rd 2016 and the subsequent triggering of Article 50 last month.

Previously it has been thought it would appeal to Brussels claiming it breached EU law and it is a possibility that it will not contest the ruling.

Le Ski has been backed by a number of other British tour operators; Alpine Elements, Crystal Ski Holidays, Esprit Ski, Inghams, Mark Warner, Neilson, Ski Olympic, Ski Total, Skiworld and Thomson Ski.

The original case was brought by the French authorities with the backing of the ESF.

Le Ski had been ordered to pay damages to the ESF of €9,000; with €5,000 payable to the ESF in Meribel and €4,000 for the national ESF based in Grenoble. 

"To be honest once the result of the UK referendum on June 23rd was announced this was the only likely outcome and it comes as no great surprise," said one industry insider to PlanetSKI.

Since the case all operators suspended the service but some, including Neilson and Mark Warner, offer a similar service but with fully-qualified instructors.

See here for a PlanetSKI feature as we sampled the service in Les2Alpes and Alpes d'Huez.

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.

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