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French ski union denies Brit rift

British ski teachers already conform with stringent European qualification test

FRENCH ski instructors say they welcome British counterparts joining their ranks - and deny they see them as new "Polish plumbers", as widely reported.

Some French and British newspapers have reported that plans for a standardised European professional card for instructors could lead to a flood of less-qualified ones, notably from Britain, "taking French jobs".

The situation could be compared to the Polish plumbers who were accused of pouring into France after their country joined the EU, they said.

The newspapers reported fears that the cards could lead to instructors working in France without the experience and expertise needed to pass France's arduous Eurotest.

This requires would-be instructors to, for example, perform a difficult slalom at racing speed and demonstrate mountain safety expertise. However the national head of ski
instructors' union SNMSF, Jean-Marie Simon, said the Eurotest was already the European standard.

"Professional instructors got together and agreed on a level of qualification, called the Eurotest, 10 years ago. The British Association of Snow-sport Instructors [Basi] took part in this and, at a meeting in January, reaffirmed its agreement to it.

"It is an EC initiative to allow free movement of professionals while guaranteeing standards."

He added: "Now Europe wants to simplify things further. They noticed that ski instructors were ahead of the game on standardised qualifications and have proposed the trial of a professional card.

"At the moment, if a British instructor wants to come to France, he must first ask permission of the French authorities, which is given if he has passed the Eurotest. However, with the card he could come to France, show his card and work. Both we and Basi are in complete agreement with it."

Mr Simon said poorly qualified people working in France as instructors are sometimes a problem, but much less so than 15 years ago.

"The problem has basically been solved. We no longer see gendarmes chasing after unqualified foreign instructors on the pistes. The instructors have brought themselves up to the right levels and know the importance of it, both so as to do a good job and to be properly paid for it."

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