Working in the Alps this Winter

As winter gets underway seasonaires, snowsport instructors (and wannabes) will be heading for the Alps to take up their winter roles. For the vast majority, these will be positions within chalet companies, tour operators and established ski schools and for those with top level qualifications and correct paperwork the opportunity to work independently.

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France is a destination that captures the headlines most winters – not only is it the most popular destination for British skiers (followed by Austria) but it offers significant opportunities for instructors with the right certification.  For those without however, there is the opportunity of a potential night in the clink, courtesy of the local Gendarmes, followed by a heavy fine.

Such actions by the French offer easy seasonal headlines for the British press – but the headlines don’t always tell the whole story or add to anyone’s understanding of why things are the way they are in France.

In the UK, snowsports are not regulated. In theory anyone can go out and teach snowsports and take money from the public. There is no requirement for any qualification or license to operate.  In France, snowsports is a regulated industry and defined in French law.

In France just about all sports where people pay to be taught are regulated, from swimming, to tennis, to paragliding.  They are regulated for the safety of those wishing to participate and to ensure proper qualifications are obtained by the professionals who teach each sport.  The French instructor system has around 24,000 registered French qualified instructors and all are licensed to teach within a ski school or as independent instructors. BASI has 350 instructors who currently hold the required qualifications and paperwork to be able to operate within the law in France as snowsports instructors.

As instructors and seasonaires head for the hills this Christmas having the correct permissions ensures there are no big surprises when the Gendarmes come checking paperwork on the slopes.

Working regulations for snowsports instructors vary from country to country and in many cases region to region. The requirements for seasonaires will also vary, so it’s important to check with both your prospective employer and your destination resort what the local working requirements are.

Many BASI Members work abroad and it is each individual Member’s responsibility to ensure that they are working within the legal framework of the area they are operating in. Working regulations do change and BASI works bilaterally and multilaterally with countries to ensure that it can provide Members with the most up to date information on working regulations and these are made available to Members via BASI’s own website.

These are BASI’s current understanding of the requirements for BASI qualified snowsports instructors to work in France:

BASI Level 4 (International Ski Teaching Diploma – ISTD – including the Euro Test) is the recognised level required to teach as a qualified instructor, independently in France. In addition, British instructors holding the BASI Level 4 ISTD qualification must register with the local official for the Ministry of Youth & Sport ‘Jeunesse et de Sport’ and be issued with a ‘Carte Professionnelle’ It is understood that just having an MoU stamp is not enough since there must be a local declaration.

BASI instructors qualified to Level 2 or 3 standards are able to work within a government   recognised ski school (Centre de Formation) in France as registered trainees, having first successfully completed a test called the Test Technique and obtained the French log book called a “livret de formation”. This is the same process that all French nationals have to fulfil before being allowed to start an instructor apprenticeship within the French system.

Countries where the snowsports industry is also regulated include Austria, Italy, Germany and Switzerland. So if you are heading to these countries this winter with a view to teaching snowsports make sure you are on the right side of the law. Further information can be found on the BASI Website