British Ski Instructors Fined

Two British ski instructors have fallen foul of French justice.  Simon Butler and James Barrett-Boyce working for Simon Butler Skiing were both sentenced to a 10,000 € fine and ordered to pay damages to the two civil parties in the case: The Syndicat National des Moniteurs de Ski Français and to the Syndicat Professionnel des Moniteurs de Ski de Megève.

The two men run a chalet in the exclusive ski resort of Megève.  Following a complaint from the local Ecole du Ski Français the Gendarmerie discovered that the two men were offering ski courses to their guests.  When questioned, the men initially tried to bluff it out by pretending not to speak French.

At the hearing earlier in the month the men asked for time to get their certification up to French standards.  Barrett-Boyce also claimed they’d done nothing wrong, “whether you ski with us or not you pay the same price”. Mr Barret-Boyce highlighted that their clients brought money to the resort “they come here for us and would never think of going to the local ski school”.  The French court in Bonneville did not agree.

Today the website of Simon Butler Skiing was still offering holidays and ski tuition.  The law 86-610 of 16th July 1984 states paid ski instruction can only be offered by people possessing the relevant French certification or international equivalent and that anyone practising such activity must register with the local authorities.  The British Association of Snowsport Instructors confirmed to PisteHors that neither of the two men was in possession of their International Ski Teacher Diploma which includes off-piste and mountain safety modules.  The ISTD entitles instructors to work in the European group of ski countries which includes France. The Basi says that they have several hundred members operating legally and successfully in Europe and many of the million plus British winter sports tourists opted for Basi instructors.

With a large influx of British to the Alps and soaring property prices patience with ex-pats contravening local legislation is wearing thin. There has been anger that some chalet owners operate their tax affairs ‘mid-channel’ and that hotels and tour operators employ staff on English contracts avoiding high French taxes.  The court in Bonneville clearly wanted to send a clear message that those businesses which flout the law will not be tolerated.

-- Additional Reporting: Geraldine Gadbin from Bonneville Crown Court.

Posted by davidof on Thursday, 25 March, 2004 at 06:54 PM

Their websites say that they have BASI level I qualifications - an internationally recognized level. Were they also lying about their BASI qualifications to their clients? 

Did you also read that Simon Butler’s ‘best friend’ of 3 years is wanted on murder charges back in Australia since 1995? Here is an interesting news story…,5744,8944080%5E421,00.html

Posted by  on  Friday, 26 March, 2004  at 03:15 AM

At the court hearing earlier this month the two men asked for time to get their certification in order so I assume this was just a question of taking some further exams like the Eurotest, a timed giant slalom (GS).  Even amongst some French teachers this exam is not that popular as it favours people from a competition background.  97% of French ski teachers have raced but does this make you a good teacher?

As the men had operated a business in Megève for many years it seems odd that the ESF waited until recently to lodge a complaint. It just shows how vital it is to comply with local laws.

Thanks for the additional link. It is a fascinating story. I’d heard about the Australian masseur in Megève but didn’t know that there was a connection.

Posted by davidof on  Friday, 26 March, 2004  at 11:46 AM

The reason I asked about BASI level 1 is that the BASI 1 includes the timed race (which is GS not slalom - slalom is not the international qualifier, it is only an intermediary step after which you have 3 years to complete the GS race). (Unless they did the BASI 1 so long ago that it didn’t include this race??) If they didn’t lie about that, then their failure was to register with French authorities (which is can bring about a hefty €15000 fine). Hardly like they are ‘rogues’ as they did go through massive training and seem to have been an established business in Megeve so to me this seems like a backlash against the British or something political/personal going on in that resort between these guys (who seem a bit arrogant in the news articles I’ve read) and the French.

If it’s anything like Chamonix where there is a lot of tension between the Brits and French, then I’d say the Brits had better get their papers in order and be ready for more of this game playing.

I also agree that racing to the finish line with a national team racer as the pace setter is hardly a test of a good teacher. In fact if the French stopped to think for a minute about why so many people don’t want to use the ESF and use other teachers, they might realize that the attitude that ‘faster is better’ breeds arrogant and intolerant instructors rather than caring and careful ones.

Also safety on piste means that lately the French government is fining people more and more for wreckless skiing (ie too fast, hitting other skiers) and so how does a ski test for speed agree with or add to the validity of that policy?

Protectionism in the ski instructor industry is only continuing to bite the ESF in the ass by loss of customers to other schools with different teaching philosphies and unfortunately other European countries are now going to follow suit and are also planning to ‘get back’ at the French policy by instituting their own ski speed tests. How will this industry protectionism and concentration on meaningless criteria like racing lead to better instructors for the average tourist who is a beginner or intermediate skier????

Posted by  on  Friday, 26 March, 2004  at 02:53 PM

I have always been shocked at the protectionist legislation regarding skiing instruction in France. As a snowboarder I have an especially low regard for ESF as their standard of snowboard instruction is abysmal because the only requirement for an ESF instructor to teach snowboarding is to pass the speed test - on skis! I always recommend friends to find BASI qualified instructors if they can and failing that to at least avoid ESF.

Posted by Playdreamer on  Friday, 26 March, 2004  at 05:33 PM

The accused were found guilty on two counts under French law no 8–640 of the 16th of July 1984. This regulates the teaching of sporting activites (activité physique or sportive) as either a primary or secondary employment, fulltime, part-time or as a season worker.  The law stipulates that teachers need the appropriate French state exam or a recognized foreign equivalent (Décret no 2002-1269 of 18th October 2002 applicable to article 43 of the above mentioned law).

Butler and Barrett-Boyce were neither in possession of the French ski instructor’s examination or a recognized foreign equivalent such as Basi ISTD nor was their ski instruction business registered with the Prefecture of the Haute Savoie.

Barrett-Boyce was also found guilty under sections 3 and 4 of the French Liquor Licensing acts for running an illegal bar.

© 2004,

Posted by  on  Friday, 26 March, 2004  at 06:00 PM
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