The arrest of a British ski instructor accused of providing lessons without a licence in the resort of Megève is the latest episode in an ongoing ‘piste war’ between UK ski professionals and the French authorities. (Featured image by Skistar Trysil)
Holidaymakers expressed their anger at the arrest by staging a protest outside a French police station, where 40-year-old Alex Casey spent a night in custody.
Although Mr Casey, originally from Folkestone in Kent, has spent the last ten years working as an instructor at the French alpine resort, this did not prevent him from being arrested earlier this week for instructing without a French qualification.
The seasoned instructor has now been banned from carrying out the job he has honed over the last decade, and could face up to three months of jail time.
Pauline Foster, one of the mass of around 100 people who attended the demonstration at the Gendarmerie in Megève, described how Mr Casey was arrested by four gendarmes, with government officials in tow.
“The police surrounded Alex and then escorted him away,” she said.
“We were all deeply shocked to see Alex arrested, and decided to join the demonstration outside the police station. They should not be allowed to get away with this.”
France now requires instructors to have passed the ‘Eurotest’ – described by the British Association of Snowsport Instructors (BASI) as ‘an integral part of the training of Ski Instructors in France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Austria and the UK’ which is ‘part of the Level 4 ISTD Qualification, BASI’s highest level of qualification’.
This latest change to the rules follows a ban on ski hosts – who guide guests around a resort to help them get to know it – on the slopes in France.
The decision by the French authorities, which could see hundreds of British ski hosts lose their job, has been criticised by a number of big tour operators.
“We have temporarily suspended our social skiing service in France while this process goes through the courts,” said a spokesman for Crystal Ski.
“We have never seen social skiing as a replacement for a ski school as social skiing is where a representative from the holiday company takes guests on familiarisation tours of the slopes, shows them good lunch spots and how to avoid the queues.”