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

The british are just like New Yorkers, you leave your polluted cities with a pile of cash in you pockets, move to the mountains and ruin all in your path.  Go on holiday, but go home when your done!

Posted by  on  Saturday, 27 March, 2004  at 05:52 PM

Kailas shows my point exactly - what an ignorant thing to say. The Parisians do the exact same things as the Londoners do when they come out to the Alps, and so do the Marseillaise - the crime rate goes up, the people are jerks and drive like maniacs. What is the difference? Oh, they might speak the same language but they have more in common culturally with London jerks than with mountain people.

So, yeah, that racist attitude is really going to encourage more British to go to French-owned businesses or to register businesses here! Hah - they’d rather give their money to a UK based business than deal with people who only want their money and who hate them - it’s certainly human nature to feel that way.

Racism/nationalism and protectionism certainly isn’t going to resolve any of these issues, but only will make them worse. Painting an entire nationality with the same brush stroke is simply ridiculous.

I don’t like any arrogant jerks who come here from London or Paris and walk around like they own the place, doing anything they want any more than anyone else. In fact I do everything I can to avoid them and to not patronize their businesses.

On the otherhand I have met a lot of down to earth really nice Brits too who have been living in France for years, know French very well and raise their kids in French schools and pay their taxes in France and run their businesses registered in France. So why should they go home - they are part of the community? And why should they be discriminated against and treated the same way as people who don’t try to integrate and register their businesses in the UK while living in France full time?

The French alps would be very hard-pressed to make a go of it without all the British and other English-speaking tourists who visit each year. They could not live on the income of French snowboarders and skiers alone! 

If you don’t like that fact then get out of the EU, close the borders and go back to the days of cave men by voting the FN into power. Remember, it was the French who sold up to the English, and not the other way around. So someone in France got rich off the English because the prices of property have tripled in the past few years - so grow up a little bit - you can’t have it both ways....

Otherwise, I suggest someone in the Alps should learn to run institutions that favor integration rather than seperation. How about free or low cost French courses for people who relocate to France during the first year they are here? Most of the schools for learning French are only found in big cities, and not in resort towns. That would go a long way to bringing the communities closer together if language were not such an issue.

How about local newspapers with a section of local news and events translated into English so that English speaking people moving there feel a part of the community right away, and are encouraged to particpate in events, rather than develop an entirely seperate ex-pat community to cope with all the cold shoulders they get?

It definitely takes 2 sides to cause a problem this big.

And the Brits need to get off their high horses and realize that when living in France, il faut parler francais - stop demanding service in English for christ sakes - I mean how hard is it really to learn to say ‘bonjour’ instead of ‘hello’ when you walk into a restaurant??? I get so sick of hearing that phrase ‘hello’ as the first words out of someone’s mouth when I am in a French owned restaurant and sometimes want to just slap the person who says this.

So, definitely both sides have to make some compromises or it will only get worse.

When will someone go after the really big UK companies who are operating in France with full time staff, offices in France and all UK work contracts who never hire French people and who are paying well under even the minimum wages for the UK to their staff? These are the ones to really go after - the big tour operators who are taking advantage of the EU loopholes and who are exploiting their workers, treating them terribly knowing that next year another group of ‘gap year’ students will be ready to come out and do the same thing? These 2 guys are small fish - I think it was something personal/political. I’d like to see the justice system work evenly and fairly and go after the real villains, who are operating much bigger businesses and avoiding taxes.

Or maybe the French could reform their small business tax regulations - that is a big problem for everyone I talk to here both French and English people. The small business person in France is taxed to the bone and can barely scrape by. The French complain about this quite a lot as well - and that is why when given the choice the UK owner will register their business in the UK rather than here in France. The French would make much more tax money by encouraging more small businesses to start up here, because overall the number of businesses would grow, rather than decrease and the tax base would actually increase even with taxes being less.

Well, as you can tell I am neither British or French so it is all very easy for me to sit here and make judgements - but I think this petty BS is so childish sometimes between people from these 2 countries - I wish both sides would grow up and learn to deal with the fact that they are going to be mixed together here and it’s better to try to improve the situation rather than make it worse with name-calling, attacks and other stuff I’ve seen go on. 

Posted by  on  Sunday, 28 March, 2004  at 12:41 AM

I share Tankgirl’s view on the fact that small businesses here are taxed to the bones and that there is therefore no real incentive to set up a business here!

Coming back to our two Brit instructors - they failed to abide by the rules. Obviously, when people choose to come and live in France, they should and must accept to comply with the law applicable here.

I think that one of the reasons why the Bonneville court sentenced them the way it did is because the two men made their clients run an important risk of which they were unaware. By holding thelmselves out as instructors, they implied that they had relevant valid professional liability insurance.

If they did subscribe a professional policy and if an accident occurred to one of their clients, I have no doubt that the insurance company would refuse to grant its cover once it finds out (which is fairly easy) that the instructors did not have the appropriate qualifications. 

Posted by  on  Sunday, 28 March, 2004  at 02:02 PM

Kailas’ point is shared by a number of people, notably Bernard Prud’homme the head of tourism in Chamonix who was reported in the Daily Telegraph (04 Jan 2004) as saying: He’d like the English to come on holiday and then go home - he does not want them to stay permanently. The unfortunate instructors may be as much victims of local rivalries although the Bonneville court didn’t think so.

At the same time France is a major beneficiary of globalisation. It exports far more than it imports. This ranges from agricultural products to engineering to aerospace. Disengaging from world trade and pulling out of the EU and the various free trade agreements (as advocated by the Front National) would be extremely damaging for the economy. Mr Barret-Boyce pointed out in court that his clients brought economic benefits to Megève.

Posted by davidof on  Sunday, 28 March, 2004  at 02:34 PM

Get your facts right!

I am Simon Butler, a BASI Grade 1 (held since 1985), and am one of the instructors involved with the court case in Bonneville. My company, Simon Butler Skiing, has been based in Megeve, France providing package skiing holidays with free instruction, for the past 21 years. The ESF has taken me to court for two reasons: Firstly they believe we are taking clients who would otherwise have chosen to take ski tuition with them, which is simply not true. Our clients return year after year because of the quality of professional tuition we can offer which is reflected in our 92 per cent return rate this season. In fact all of the guests holidaying with us during the week of the court case alone signed a petition to state they visit Megeve to ski with us, and wouldn’t consider taking ski tuition with the ESF.

The second reason is because of the Equivalence speed test. The Euro, or Speed Test, was brought in two years ago by the French to assess an instructor’s ability. I agree that they have the right to insist that foreign instructors also take this test. BASI (British Association of Snowsports Instructors) followed this move and incorporated the Speed Test into the Grade 1 exam. All French and British instructors who passed their exams prior to the Speed Test were exempted from taking it, and awarded the Test.  It is because I employ BASI Grade 3 and 2 level instructors that I have not been granted the Speed Test.  The ESF is able to employ unqualified instructors as Stagiers (trainees). They are able to work and train for up to four years before they have to pass the Speed Test and attain their French Diploma.  This law is good as it enables a trainee instructor to work and pay for the training required to attain the level needed to pass the Speed Test while developing their teaching methods and working with real clients.  I am simply asking to be able to operate under the same legislation as the French. At this time there is no law which enables our instructors to work under the same rules as our French counterparts so we knew prior to the court hearing what the result would be! In fact our lawyer had already prepared our appeal which went in the next day! We are now continuing to work under appeal and will be taking the case forward, if necessary to European Court in Brussels.

Posted by  on  Monday, 29 March, 2004  at 12:04 AM
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