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Why is the ESF so universally denounced?

 Poster: A snowHead
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I've been flicking through a few of my guide books, past and present, and was intrigued by the constant and devastating critique many have afforded towards the Ecole du Ski Francais over the years. Now, I haven't used this lot since I was at school but I do have distant memories of a Colonel Gadaffi lookalike, who passed off as an instructor, leading me and a fellow class mate around the mountain receiving absolutely zero tuition whatsoever! Are things really still this bad? If I were to believe everything I've read in my guides (even some up to date ones) I wouldn't touch this lot with a barge pole! Or is something more sinsiter at work here, for example implicit Francophobia? What's your experience been like?
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kevin, have a flick thorugh some of the recent posts this one's been done to death.
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I'm not even sure it's the ESF, more the general attitude of the French industry. I remember taking the family to Montgenevre a few years ago. I queued to buy lift-passes, ski-school for the kids, carte-neige. The whole lot came to around £500, and the lady at the till didn't even smile as she took my money. This was the last straw for me - France was the most suitable destination while the kids were small, but after years of indifferent service and sub-standard accommodation something had to change.

Now I know that the British are supposed to 'grin and bear it' or 'suffer in silence', but reading this forum you'd sometimes be forgiven for thinking that 90% of all the skiing in the world is in France. I just can't imagine why people put up with it.

However, all that was 10 years ago, and I guess things may have improved. I have never returned to the French Alps though, the Swiss get my money every winter now.
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telford_mike wrote:
... the Swiss get my money every winter now.

Must admit, that's happening more and more for me, too. But that's an overall preference which is beginning to show itself. I've had quite a lot of ESF instruction. I thought most was good, some was excellent - very little was poor.
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Tignes, Val Claret: In gregory's first week I enrolled him in ESF. First lesson was on Sunday Morning. A rather craggy mountain man in Red barked something in French at the 20-30 assembled kids and took off up the drag lift. The 50% or so French speakers duly followed. Of the remainder, around half were old, experienced or on the ball enough to follow on, having seen where the others were going.

Gregory made his way to the lift entrance but was unable to get up a small incline by the gate. Prefering a hands off approach on principle, I waited for the instructor to return for the 5 or so kids who hadn't made it up the lift. And, return he did. Then, promptly took off up the lift again for a second run!!

Gregory was stuck, at least 2 others were sat on the snow crying, about 5 that I was aware of hadn't yet made it onto the lift for the first time. The guy didn't seem to notice, much less care.
I removed the ESF vest from Gregory and I remember the instructor's look of consternation when it hit him as he emerged like a 'duck in a shooting gallery' on the drag lift.

The ESF are so ready to embrace legislation in the name of safety standards when it disadvantages their competition but IMO they need a little legislation applied to themselves. This guy should not have been given charge of children, period, much less 30 of them speaking multiple languages between them!

I was livid and went into their office where they wheeled out a person with 'people skills'. She eventually talked me out of an instant and full refund and convinced me to give the 'afternoon guy' a try.
Well, they 'just' got away with it. Essentially, the service was not quite bad enough to have a stong case for kicking up a huge fuss. But not good enough to ever, ever go near them again ever.

Meanwhile, I'd discovered Evolution2 who gave us more help and advice for free than the ESF doled out to us as paying customers. Needless to say, on both subsequent visits Gregory, any other child under our charge and one or two adults have enrolled into Evolution2 Classes with results ranging between good and excellent, mostly at the upper end of that range.

How can the ESF possibly continue when such comparisons seem so commonplace?

Mais monsieur ve 'ave ze government on our side rolling eyes
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u brain, yes but the trouble is although individual experiences are very real and relevant, they are still anecdotal and not necessarily representative. That is to say, to balance the one bad experience one child had aged 6 at Courchevel it would only be fair if I detailed the other 99 average to excellent sessions all the kids have had as well. I can probably recall twenty or thirty in sufficient detail... so, where shall I start ... wink

Of course it's true that juggernaut industries and businesses can become overconfident, lax, inefficient, when competition is restricted. But that doesn't mean a radical alternative is automatically better. Some of us remember British Rail and all its problems... then along came the new government preaching redemption through privatisation, and what's the UK got now? Rail accidents, delays, huge losses, private enterprises that have tendered so low just to get the business that they cannot operate profitably without offering a poor service, renewing infrastructure and railstock only when it's absolutely necessary (and sometimes not even then).

The ESF has its faults, there's no doubt about it. But they stem from size rather than 'Frenchness', and even now they are attempting to deal with the problem. And as detailed in the other thread, the French have their reasons for wanting uniform standards in a profession involving the teaching and supervision of young people, and they wouldn't have it any other way.... the French government is defending the wishes of its voters, as you would expect it to do, not the interests of the ESF. We talk about the even playing field - so what's fair about the ESF strictly applying qualified instructor to trainee ratios in schools when they may be ignored elsewhere?
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ESF suffer from Frenchness not size!

I recall several letters from the French Sports Ministry in the 70's and 80's to my company Tailor Made Ski Tours, informing us that our various BASI qualifications were not acceptable in France, even though the Treaty of Rome made it plain that we had the right to work there.

From my perspective they shot themselves in the foot, we made a policy to have nothing to do with France and until we retired in the late 80's we took the best part of a million pounds worth of customers to Switzerland who welcomed us with open arms.

Although I am now also CSIA qualified, based in Whistler, Canada and am biased by the highly 'customer oriented' ski school here, I still cringe when I get a BASI newsletter and see they are still bending over and allowing the ESF to dictate to them. Seems like not a lot has changed.
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
colinmcc, Hi - I wondered what had happened to you! Nice to hear you on snowheads & welcome! Remember Aviemore & Heini Messner's race training camp?

PG, I think you're being a bit over-protective there. Here in LDA the ESF have the worst qualified/trainee ratio in town, and to boot use trainees with impunity while denouncing everyone else to the Jeuness et Sport. Having said that I wish all the journos etc would stop bashing the ESF and start promoting the real thing instead. What we need is for holiday skiers to STOP BOOKING THEIR SKI SCHOOL THROUGH THE TOUR OPERATORS (sorry David@traxvax, ) who are mostly only interested in their commission. If Thompsons/Neilsons/Airtours/first choice etc. would accept a reasonable commission (say 10%), and not want 20+% or so across the board then they might find value for money. No small business can compete with the ESF. We cannot offer the commission they do, so stop the rot where it starts, with the big contracts.

kevin mcclean, Some of my friends work for the ESF and are very good teachers, multi-lingual and so on - pity they're often forced to teach ridiculously large classes of idiot English schoolchildren, who are so unfit and pathetic it's embarrassing. "I can't get up", "My legs hurt","when can we have a fag break?" and so on!!! Shocked
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colinmcc,With respect, I would suggest that that is your loss, not theirs. Many nations have individual interpretations of which regulatory measures, if any, should be applied to certain professions. There are times when these measures - and not just in France - come into conflict with the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital as defined under the Treaty of Rome - whose signatories, by the way, also signed up to:

Art 3 (p): a contribution to education and training of quality and to the flowering of the cultures of the Member States.
Art 3 (s): a contribution to the strengthening of consumer protection.
Art 3 (t): measures in the spheres of ... civil protection ...

Art 48 (c) (right of workers) to stay in a Member State for the purpose of employment in accordance with the provisions governing the employment of nationals of that State laid down by law, regulation or administrative action...

Nothing's straightforward - and the lawyers were all smiling when this particular treaty was being devised.

Some people opt, as you have done, to shun France rather than adapt to their requirements. I too ran a business, in the freight forwarding field for nearly twenty years before moving to France. Despite this experience, as it is an unregulated profession in the UK and regulated in France, equivalence was not automatically granted. Fair enough - I respected their system, and could see it was devised to ensure that quality services and financial/accounting integrity are maintained. It was obvious that it was not a discriminatory or a protectionist measure. So I adapted to them, with a little effort - I didn't go off in a huff because I thought the British knew best, or because it would be a hassle to conform to tougher standards!
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easiski wrote:

PG, I think you're being a bit over-protective there. Here in LDA the ESF have the worst qualified/trainee ratio in town, and to boot use trainees with impunity while denouncing everyone else to the Jeuness et Sport. Having said that I wish all the journos etc would stop bashing the ESF and start promoting the real thing instead. What we need is for holiday skiers to STOP BOOKING THEIR SKI SCHOOL THROUGH THE TOUR OPERATORS (sorry David@traxvax, ) who are mostly only interested in their commission. If Thompsons/Neilsons/Airtours/first choice etc. would accept a reasonable commission (say 10%), and not want 20+% or so across the board then they might find value for money. No small business can compete with the ESF. We cannot offer the commission they do, so stop the rot where it starts, with the big contracts.

That may be the case in some of the mega resorts, but I have heard a very different story elsewhere. And in some respects if true in L2A, it reflects the fact that the ESF is competing by allowing standards to fall as well. A couple of ESF instructors have made just that point to me.

It's also true that in not a few cases small ESF schools themselves will find it hard to operate under the new legislation.

Interesting point about the tour operators. So much for allowing the market full rein! Inevitably the big boys have economies of scale that make them more competitive, and the smaller operators are gradually squeezed out. It's the same story in virtually all sectors, industrial and service. An argument for more interventionism, maybe? wink
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PG wrote:
But that doesn't mean a radical alternative is automatically better. Some of us remember British Rail and all its problems... then along came the new government preaching redemption through privatisation, and what's the UK got now? Rail accidents...?

Rail accidents, yes but ... at a rate less than half per passenger-km in the ten years post-privatisation than pre-privatisation. Whether more by luck than judgement, I don't know. The factoid I've just quoted can be gleaned from this Excel spreadsheet on the Department for Transport site, if anyone's interested.
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laundryman, yes, but then they've closed down large parts of the network as unprofitable, ripped up many miles of track... without checking the Ministry's stats, was this factored in? wink Do more passengers travel in fewer trains?

And what about the remainder of my point that you part-quoted??
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PG wrote:
laundryman, yes, but then they've closed down large parts of the network as unprofitable, ripped up many miles of track... without checking the Ministry's stats, was this factored in? wink Do more passengers travel in fewer trains?

Not the foggiest. But I inferred from your post (I hesitate to say that you implied it wink)that privatisation led to more accidents, which would seem to be hard to establish.

Quote:
And what about the remainder of my point that you part-quoted??

What are you trying to do, occupy my entire life?! You can infer from my silence that it is either a veritable pearl of wisdom, unmitigated tosh or somewhere in between (or refer to views expressed in other posts) Very Happy
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Quote:

they stem from size rather than 'Frenchness'


Not so sure about that wink Personally,I cannot deride the ESF as the only time I used them it was actually quite a pleasant experience.However,I feel that the 'Frenchness' issue touches on part of the problem.Mentioned in the other thread was the concept that the "vendor is always correct" Confused IMHO this is a cultural issue,and one that manifests itself in a lot of French business.Why should the ESF be immune?We British,along with the Americans,are unique in so far as we expect everybody else's view of the world to bend to accommodate ours?No idea of the numbers,but,quite obviously,the ESF's major client will be the French.Do they 'universally' denounce them?

However,when they market themselves as 'English' speaking,the position shifts a little;or does it?Yes,if they say it,they should do it;or be pulled to task for not providing it.But I cant say I've ever seen 'English Teaching'??The lines of kids snaking across the hill playing copy the leader,is uniquely French.Maybe not our preferred teaching style,but it doesn't seem to harm the French.They do,after all,produce the odd decent skier wink

As it says in the back of your holiday brochure;"Standards,and levels of service,may be different to what you are accustomed" Perhaps the ESF should add that to their adverts??
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Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Quote:

"I can't get up", "My legs hurt","when can we have a fag break?"


Easiski;Do I take it I cant use these excuses when I see you wink
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easiski wrote:
colinmcc, Hi - I wondered what had happened to you! Nice to hear you on snowheads & welcome! Remember Aviemore & Heini Messner's race training camp?


Hi, Charlotte,

I can't work out how to email you through this board, but please get in touch with me via my website, www.notecannons.com

Judy McC is also in Canada, she spends part of the time here with us in Whistler and part of the time in Revelstoke with her daughter Danni who was the most improved racer in the K1 age group in BC last year... Look for her in the 2010 Olympics if not before.

I remember both Aviemore & Heini Messner well, Heini very fondly, Aviemore less so... wink

Aloha

Colin
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Just to try and balance the argument I find ESF in La Rosiere very good, teachers were excellent with my children who advanced quite quickly and changed classes through the week. The odd private lessons with ESF over the years have also been good, I remember one particular lesson when we were dragged over to a particularly deep mogul field under a gondola and spent the afternoon falling down, back in the days of lovely long skis.
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I've always had really nice teachers from ESF, first one was a mad woman in Serre Chevalier, she had 12 whinging 15yr old girls moaning at her all week- but still had the patience of a saint! The second one was possibly the most gorgeous man ive ever met, in Alpe D'huez, a guy in our class broke a ski, so the instructor gave him one of his and skiied down on one leg - I was smitten! ( of course the tuition was excellent aswell!)
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PG wrote:
laundryman, yes, but then they've closed down large parts of the network as unprofitable, ripped up many miles of track... without checking the Ministry's stats, was this factored in? wink Do more passengers travel in fewer trains?

And what about the remainder of my point that you part-quoted??


There is some debate as to whether the rail service is better or worse than pre-privatisation (BR certainly had its faults - but a lot of them could have been fixed without dismantling it). What is not in doubt is that it now costs the tax payer considerably more than it did pre-privatisation (despite, or because the companies make profits which cannot now be used to help subsidise loss-making parts of the operation). The safety issue is interesting. The general trend for passenger rail fatalities is downwards and has been for the last 50 years (and probably before that). Also, British rail safety compares well (and always has done) with much of Europe (even now).

You'll notice that the worst year (in recent years) was 1988. This was the year of the Clapham rail crash. The number of deaths here was compounded by the use of old, slam door rolling stock. It was decided to phase out the use ofthis stock. This process though was put on hold in the run up to privatisation (along with many other investment decisions, inc. track maintenance) to make the balance sheets of the various franchises look better to prospective companies. This stock is still being used.

Now, take the Potters Bar crash. There were two things that reduced the number of deaths (1) the time of day it occurred, if it had happened at evening rush hour the train woudl have been packed (2) that it occurred on a line with decent stock. Jarvis work on many lines so you could not rule out the fact that it may have occurred on a slam door line. There would have been no pictures of the rear car wedged onto the platform then. It would have been scattered all over the station. However, these sorts of things can be applied to all crashes.

Where the current set-up really adversely affects safety is the disparate responsibilities and the post-crash buck passing that goes on. This makes it more difficult to learn and apply lessons (see the aftermath of Ladbroke Grove).

Sorry about that. Back to the ESF.... Very Happy
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Nadenoodlee, You girls are all the same! My wife's eyes were particularly drawn to a certain ski instructor last year in La Ros. As for skiing on on ski we used to ski off with one of our instructor's skis after a refreshment stop. They invariably skied better on one than we did at the time on two. Nowadays we do the same to each other as retribution for some minor misdemeanour. Blush
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snowskisnow, These excuses are forbidden to Easiski clients! The last kid that tried it got "you're only 11 years old of course you can get up" (mind you she was a fat, rude lump).

Seriously though, if people are nervous, that's fine, but I'm appalled at the lack of fitness of the average English school child on ski-ing hols. My French friends are constantly asking me why the English are so wet![

PG, The economies of scale work for the ESF with big TO contracts, but personal service also has a place, as my diary for this year proves. The ESF (or any other big school) cannot afford to run small groups with personal service since their overheads are too high! Works both ways I think. They tried to do what I do (max 4 in a group) with the Salomon Station a few years ago, but they couldn't make it pay. Very Happy
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Chris B wrote:
Just to try and balance the argument I find ESF in La Rosiere very good, teachers were excellent with my children who advanced quite quickly and changed classes through the week. The odd private lessons with ESF over the years have also been good, I remember one particular lesson when we were dragged over to a particularly deep mogul field under a gondola and spent the afternoon falling down, back in the days of lovely long skis.


There may be a good reason for the La Rosiere ESF being good, especially with children. Apart from the fact that the resort trades heavily on it's reputation as an ideal family destination, the deputy director of the ESF is English!
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Quote:

Nadenoodlee, You girls are all the same!

Chris B, We had an instructor in La Plagne one year, and I must admit to being drawn slightly myself, couldnt decide if I should kiss him or scar him for life
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Frosty the Snowman, perhaps you would have done both at the same time wink
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laundryman, Laughing Laughing Laughing Yes I can see him still standing there 6 years later, jaw dropped, in complete shock Laughing Laughing Laughing
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My first ever year was in La Plagne. Spent most of time trying to keep up with instructor while she huffed at me for being slow. came back with no technique and a badly injured knee (which took nearly a year to heal although still weak). Went back into bambi class in Soldeu the next year & had a complete blast. Will never be a great skier but at least I know how to stop now. France would definitely be at the bottom of my list of 'must go' ski resorts.
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Eeyore, whereas when I used the ESF in La Plagne we were being shown the basics of slalom racing and how to 360, which was fun.
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easiski, wet and unfit - oh dear!

What is the profile of the average school age punter, I presume it's changed from the public school / compulsory games brigade of twenty years ago.
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You know it makes sense.
marc gledhill, Most of the kids I see here with schools are between 10 and 15 years old. Most are rather fat (compared to the French), and they are frequently what I call "soft" around the edges. They generally go around the resort being extraordinarily embarassing (swearing etc), and when they fall over, block the lift track, fail to even try to get up and wait for their long suffering instructor to come and help them.

The kids who are not like this generally come with their parents!

It seems quite clear to me that the lack of organised sport at school, the preponderance of playstations and the like, and the apalling constant eating of crisps and fast food are doing exactly what the government are harping on about. the English are becoming a nation of overweight wusses!

(OK I may be exaggerating a little - but not much!) Confused
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easiski wrote:


(OK I may be exaggerating a little - but not much!) Confused


I'd say you've got it about spot on! I was out the other day doing a little job,and what should come shambling by;some PE class on a cross country run.We had groups of girls munching bags of crisps,chatting on mobiles,preening their hair(when the boys appeared from the opposite direction)Then we had boys kicking cans,larking about generally and answering their mobiles!!The odd one actually running had abuse and rubbish thrown at them!!
Yesterday morning I was at Tamworth Snowdome with my daughter(she needs to re-discover her ski legs)Excellent morning BTW,very quiet(u can forget W/ends now)Anyway,this group appeared for a lesson.Big group of around 25? Mostly teenagers around 14/15?? Couple of adults.Ha ha,thinks I,school party on pre trip preparations.Honestly,you have never seen such a shambles!!Falling down seemed to turn into a competition?At one stage,colliding with a barrier seemed to be the thing to do,so they all had a go!!Now every lesson at Tam is 1 hour.This lot were off slope after 30mins!!Why?Perhaps the poor instructor had seen enough.We can safely assume that the parents are paying.What a complete and utter bloody waste of time Mad
I really do despair when I see some of the antics of the current generation.It is obviously unreasonable to expect them all to be 'all action hero's',but why should so many be,to nearly quote Easiski,"fat wusses".I do my best to keep my lot in check and,to be fair,they know where I'm coming from(and usually listen to me?)
Easiski;here's a suggestion(if your finances can stand it wink )Next time you're faced with the scenario you describe why not tell them the truth(as clearly no one else has) "You are a fat,lazy,uncouth moose.If you want to waste someone's time go elsewhere.You're not wasting mine"!! Go on,admit it;how many times have you wished you could say that rolling eyes
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snowskisnow, you're turning in to a grumpy old man! Toofy Grin
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snowskisnow, Fortunately, becauce I don't get involved with the school trip scenario, and my product appeals to "real" skiers (even if they never have) I don't really suffer from this scenario at all. Having said that I wouldn't put up with it anyway. I really do think that people pay me to teach them to ski - not to babysit!

Ian Hopkinson, Having seen the prog on TV I have to say I'm one too!! Sad
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