Thoughts on French ski hosting

The row between French ski schools and British tour operators about ski hosting/guiding/leading/instructing has gone on so long , it’s beginning to seem like the Hundred Years War.  Chalet holiday operator Le Ski is up before the beak on Monday.  Will this encounter be Agincourt or the siege of Orléans?

Of course it’s not about safety.  It’s about jobs, and power.  Val d’Isère may feel it’s big enough to stare down the tour operators who threaten them with loss of business, and it is probably right. Tour ops like Le Ski are hardly likely to pull out.  They own property.* (see Nick Morgan of Le Ski’s comments at the end of the post).

Are the hosts paid to host?  The guests may not pay extra for ski hosting, but the hosts are employed and hosting is part of the job, so yes.

Does hosting take business away from local ski school? Very little. Mountain guides? Not at all.  Hosting really performs a social function, giving skiers other skiers to ski with.  On which subject …

What are the implications for Ski Club GB’s reps and their guiding activities in France if the decision goes against ski hosting?  Its leaders and reps may have done a training course, but most of them have no qualification.  They may be able to continue on grounds of being a club and unpaid, and the club would no doubt benefit if tour operators had to stop hosting.

Do hosts instruct?  I doubt it.  The ESF gets very hot under the collar, and the lawyers may also, about the concept of teaching by demonstration.  In other words, you don’t have to offer instruction in order to teach.

Do hosts take their groups off-piste?  Not unless they are extremely stupid.

Holding up Austria as a model of openness is not right. Austria has effectively prevented the chalet holiday industry from taking root by its own style of protectionism.

In so far as their clients go to ski school, the tour operators have bargaining power, now that there are competing schools in French resorts.  ‘Lend us an instructor to be a ski host, and we will send our clients to your school for their lessons,’ might be productive.  But I doubt the demand for instruction is there.

Many North American resorts offer hosting.  Local volunteers, mostly without any special qualification, take visitors on ‘meet the mountain’ tours, according to a deal whereby they get a free lift pass in exchange for a day or two a week of hosting ‘work’.  Admittedly there is an extra language barrier in France, but ski resorts like Val d’Isère are constantly going on about learning from the example of American service culture.   Maybe they could think about introducing something similar.

Would the tour operators mind if hosting was banned? They would probably be delighted, as long as the ban was consistently applied.

Will the Le Ski case settle this long-running issue once and for all, one way or the other?  Highly unlikely.

* Nick Morgan of Le Ski comments:

“Bizarrely, it’s not Val d’Isère but Ecole du Ski Français in Méribel who are suing us… a resort where I’ve hardly ever had dinner, never mind any chalets!!

“I don’t agree that ops would be delighted if hosting was banned. It’s a really vital part of the chalet offering. Guests absolutely love it and would never forgive ESF if it was banned. Neither would operators.” 

Le Ski offers chalet holidays in Val d’Isère, Courchevel and La Tania. Link to Le Ski’s website  

PS Update Jan 7. The judge is out. Judgement Feb 18.  In the meantime I am not sure if Le Ski clients can expect ski hosts to be ski hosting as normal.  Nor, it seems, is Le Ski.

Click links for subsequent posts on this subject in Feb ’13 and October ’13  

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