Wednesday, 6 April 2011

EMS - Mountain Safety Training

In the past I have mentioned the Eurotest and how it can be a major hurdle for ski instructors wanting to work in France. The French have also imposed a second test - the Eurosecurity - which is now part of the top level qualifications for Eurogroup countries including France, Italy, Austria and the UK. Whilst less known and for most people less difficult than the Eurotest the Eurosecurity course is a lot more useful and practical for working ski instructors. The idea is to achieve a minimum standard of mountain safety awareness so that clients can be confident that a top level qualified instructor is competent to take them off piste safely.

I have just attended the training part of the Eurosecurity or EMS (European Mountain Safety) as it is named in the British system. The second part will be a three day examination next winter in La Grave. The photo above is from the first day of the course, ascending the Col des Crochues in the Chamonix Aiguilles Rouge range.

The second and third days of the course took us to the region around the Grand St. Bernard Pass which links Switzerland and Italy (above - setting off from the Super St. Bernard car park; below - arriving at the St. Bernard Monastery where we spent the night.)

Above - St Bernard Pass. Below - Day 3, ski touring in Italy and Switzerland

Overall I have to say that this was one of the best of the many ski instructor courses I have done. It was definitely one of the most enjoyable, partly because there was no exam - not until next year anyway - and partly because we got to explore a lot more of the mountains than on most courses. It was also a very useful course. I often ski off piste with clients in a fairly limited way, within the remit of my current ISIA Mountain Safety qualification i.e. within the ski area, close to marked runs, accessible from ski lifts.
   "Can we go off-piste?" is a common question from my more advanced groups whilst "Can we learn to race?" is something I almost never hear. However skiing off piste entails all the risks of the mountain environment - avalanches, navigation hazards, rocks, cliffs, trees etc. so it is important for the instructor to be aware of the risks and to work within the remit of their qualifications to minimise them. An instructor who has passed the Eurosecurity is then qualified to take clients off piste or ski-touring on non-glaciated terrain for up to one day. For trips beyond the remit of this qualification the client would have to book a UIAGM/IFAMG qualified High Mountain Guide.


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