French ski instructors are amateurs

French ski instructors are unprofessional. Here is a few observations from France.

I just recently been 8 days in the French Alps, and I was a bit choked by the lack of professionalism shown the French ski instructors.

I myself am educated as a snowboard instructor from Canada, and cannot teach in France. ESF (Ecole du Ski Français) require that you have the French ski instructor certificate, but I must say I don’t care much for it. I observed a lot of snowboard and ski instructors in Val Thorens, I had I done it their way in Whistler, I was probably fired.
Here is my observations:

  • Most of the French ski instructors are riding without a helmet. They may be riding slow and be great skiers, but in my opinion instructors should lead by a good example, especially when working with children.
  • Ski schools take up a lot af space on the slopes. Yes, the snakes are quite naturally long, and there should be room for everyone – also beginners. But in France there is no problem crossing the entire slope with 15 students, making it completely impossible for anyone else to get past. The snowboard instructors are no better. Twice I came across large groups sitting just behind a dip in the slope, being completely hidden behind it, spread out over 10-15 meters. That is a good way to endanger yourself and others the most (this is despite the fact that we where in the fun park 80 % at the time, and therefore rarely came across the snow school groups).
    On the topic of being in the way, it would be nice to teach your students to go off the the side when getting off a chair lift, instead of just standing all over waiting for the rest.
  • Unbelievably many ski schools used the button lift next to the park in the week we where there. Many of them was beginners and fell off. That left them with 3 options: Ride down between the people on the lift, ride an icy off-pist or ride down the largest section of the park. A poor choice of lift for beginners. I think the one instructor in front of me knew this, which could be the reason why he violently pulled up a kid from the ground, and rode up with him.
  • Once the entire group made it to the top, we often saw them in the park. Fair enough, many of them were in the family park, where you would find the perfect jumps and boxes for beginners. Unfortunately many of them where in the bigger park too, and didn’t have anything close to the skills to ride it. Lots of them came in under the fence half way down the park. The jumps were frequently occupied by kids in a reversed pizza, as they didn’t dare gain enough speed to clear the take off. They struggled while the queue was building. The worst incident happened at the parks very last kicker:
  • The last kicker in the park had a drop of about 1 meter and a 2-3 meter flat section – a jump the required some speed, and with a chance to hurt yourself. When we got there, a ski instructor stood there with 15 kids, and we were a bit frustrated having to wait for all of them. My friend was quick a went past the instructor before he moved, and he was furious. I am standing, and unsure wether he was going or not, which made him go bananas. We runs over to me and shouts at me in front of his students: “WAIT! Do you not understand!?” I pointed out that I was standing complete still, and asked him to go talked to the one who went past instead of shouting at me. He straight lines down to the jump, does a 360, while all his students goes around the jump and after him. All of this just so that he could be a smart ass to his group, that weren’t close to taking the jump.
    Down in the lift queue my friend was waiting, and was given the same speech I had just been given. My friend answered that he didn’t want to wait for 15 kids knuckling (going too short and falling over as we see on 3 out of 4 jumps). I assume the ski instructor was falling short, cause he went to a physical reaction and pushed my friend, who left it at that.
    Should we have waited? Probably, but there is no excuse for a unprofessional behavior like that, and doesn’t explain why they were there at all.

Are all French ski instructors amateurs? No, there must be some that are very skilled and motivated instructors, and we even met one (still without a helmet though), but I am chocked to see so many instructors make so many elementary mistake over and over. Once again I am reminded, that the French have a different view on service (the lifties were also careless), but other than that we had a great vacation in Val Thorens.