The Ski Club of Great Britain has partnered with French ski school Evolution 2 to offer an instructor-led ski guiding service, while continuing the legal battle to reinstate their banned free volunteer service.
The Club will offer a subsidised scheme using fully qualified Evolution 2 instructors this winter, after the French courts banned their volunteer Leaders from showing other members round the mountain. Leaders were trained as mountain guides by the Club, but offered no instruction as they were not qualified ski instructors.
French law states no-one can “lead people around the mountains for remuneration unless they are suitably qualified ski instructors”. But the Club argues its Leaders are volunteers, paid only travel and living expenses, so the ban is “misguided and inappropriate”.
It withdrew the free service last year after a Leader was found guilty of illegally guiding in Val d’Isere and fined €10,000. The case against them was supported by the Ecole du Ski Français (ESF) — France’s national ski school – which was awarded damages of €1 for loss of earnings.
Read more about the controversy over guiding and ski instructing in France here.
‘Skiing with members is crucial’
While the appeals process moves through the courts, the Club last year introduced an Ambassador service – volunteers who offered groups advice ahead of a ski day without going out on the hill with them. This has now been scrapped as the role “wasn’t able to include that crucial element of our Leading service – skiing with members,” said Frank McCusker, chief executive of the Club.
“We know from feedback that it’s the unique service of being taken round the mountains, getting the inside track from our Leaders, finding the best snow, and meeting in local mountain restaurants and bars that members really appreciate.”
In an effort to provide that level of service, the Club has announced a partnership with Tignes-based French ski school Evolution 2 – offering members guiding with instructors in 11 resorts this winter.
McCusker said: “Evolution 2 will offer an alternative Ski with the Club experience for this season [and] as fully qualified instructors, they can also offer instruction during the sessions if desired, as well as discounted private lessons or guiding.”
The service will feature a regular programme of a minimum 3 sessions a week, a mix of half-days and full days that will suit all levels of skiing or boarding ability.
The Ski Club will subsidise the service, however it will not be free like the previous Leading service. Members will be asked to pay an administration fee of £10 to join a half-day group, and £20 for a full day.
It’s met with mixed reaction online. Some say it’s a good deal for intermediate skiers looking to improve, who get to ski with an instructor for a lower price than a lesson, but not such good value for advanced skiers who just want to find out the best places to ski without paying extra.
Evolution 2 founder Hervé Favre said: “The changes facing the Ski Club’s Leader service in France may be a departure from the norm for many members, but it provides an excellent opportunity for members to improve their skiing and mountain safety awareness through the wisdom and knowledge that will passed onto them from our Evolution 2 professionals.”
The new service will operate in Alpe d’Huez, Argentière, Avoriaz, Courchevel, Flaine, La Plagne, Méribel, Les Arcs, Tignes, Val d’Isère and Val Thorens.
Standard Leading will continue to be offered in 17 resorts across Europe and North America.
The Ski Club’s FAQs
- What is happening to the Ambassador service? The Ambassador role will not be offered to members for the upcoming season 2015/16. Partnership with Evolution 2 will be replacing this service in France, offering an instruction-led guiding programme to members. This will be similar to the Leading service previously enjoyed by members in France, but with an additional instruction element.
- Is the rest of the Leading service in Europe affected? Leading is still taking place as usual in 17 resorts across Europe, North America and as part of the Freshtracks holidays.
- Will the Ski Club provide training for Evolution 2? All instructors will receive full training about the Ski Club’s purpose, values and commitments, expectations from members and the Ski Club, the skiing and social aspect of the service, and the snow reporting role.
- Will there be a fee for this service? We are asking members to book a place online in advance, paying a nominal booking fee of £10 for a half-day session or £20 for a full day. Members can also pay the ski school directly in resort.
- How is the Club paying for this? This service, as with the previous Ambassador service, will be paid for out of membership subscriptions and any surplus from other Ski Club benefits and services. Costs have been forecast as similar to the Ambassador service last year.
- Are Evolution 2 able to instruct? As fully qualified instructors under French law, they are able to lead, guide and instruct during these sessions.
- Are we still offering different ability sessions? We will continue to offer an on snow programme that is based on members’ skiing ability, with some flexibility according to conditions and member demand. We will offer a mix of around 3 sessions a week of half-days and full days, on and off piste. This programme will include instruction and off piste skiing
- Will this be branded as the Ski Club? Instructors will wear Ski Club jackets that will be dual-branded, and all meeting places will have Ski Club signs.
- Which French resorts will offer the new progamme? Evolution 2 will provide dedicated instructors in Alpe d’Huez, Argentiere, Avoriaz, Courchevel, Flaine, La Plagne, Meribel, Les Arcs, Tignes, Val d’Isere and Val Thorens.
- Will transceivers and safety equipment still be offered? Evolution 2 will provide off piste safety equipment during the sessions as required. Members will still be able to hire transceivers from the Ski Club.
- Is this the end of Leading? We are working strenuously to keep the Leading service – adapting to accommodate changes in regulations and practices. We will continue to defend Leaders’ volunteer status in France.
- What is ‘Ski with the Club’? Membership of the Ski Club of Great Britain offers Freshtracks holidays, Leading and now Instructor-led Guiding in France as part of our unique Ski with the Club experience.