Hoooooray!!! Today I found out that I can legally work as a mountain bike guide in France. Sooo excited! I can’t wait to be able to show people super rad trails again. Here’s a little story about the process.
I’ve been guiding in France on and off for the last few years, first in Morzine in 2007, then in Les Arcs and on the Trans-Provence route. In 2007 the Haute-Savoie (of which Morzine is a part) finally decided that they didn’t want British guides working on their patch, and arrests were made. Over in Les Arcs (part of the Savoie) it took a little longer for the authorities to notice/make a fuss about it, approximately another 6 years in fact. Initially it seemed like there was no solution and the safest thing for most of us was just to stop guiding rather than risk a hefty fine or even prison. However, with the help of Sam Morris at BikeVillage.co.uk that has now changed. You can read the full article here, but suffice to say that it is now possible to take an equivalence test to prove your abilities. If you pass, you’re able to legally work as a mountain bike guide in France.
I did that exact test last week and really enjoyed it. I was worried my french wasn’t really up to scratch, but as soon as I was having to use it loads more than usual I found my confidence increasing.
I got off to a good start, being one of only 3 people to pass the navigation and bike-handling tests on the first day – the navigation caught some people out, but I guess using an IGN map (France’s equivalent to our British OS maps) for the first time in a long time isn’t easy. The next day we were tested on incident management which involved a first aid scenario and calling the emergency services – in french of course. I’d spent a few weeks revising body parts and phrases, although in the end I didn’t really need them – turns out my french is a lot better than I give myself credit for! It will certainly be useful for the future though – to date I’ve never needed to call the emergency services whilst guiding, but I’m sure my time will come.
The final element was to be teaching some 7-8 year olds about balance on their bikes. Initially I thought this wouldn’t be too bad, till Sam reminded me about how they have a really short attention span! I got a load of really useful phrases from him to keep them in control, and the session got off to a good start with me definitely in charge. It was pretty hard as I was showing them stuff and trying to explain stuff in French, and when they messed around a bit, it felt almost impossible to just look up from the kid you’re helping and shout across to the one messing around to stop it – whereas in English it’d be something you wouldn’t even think twice about. I got lots of feedback from the assessors afterwards, and the general line of questioning was about what I could’ve done to make it better. I wasn’t convinced I’d passed this element to say the least! But at last, I could just go home and not think about it any more.
Even though I’d quite enjoyed the whole thing, it was undoubtedly quite refreshing to have a few days focussing my mind on other things. Then yesterday night I heard a few of the others had had their results. Where were mine!! Today I got the answer… I only flippin went and PASSED! Still can’t quite believe it, but it’s super cool!
So there we have it. If you want to guide in France, there is a solution! Oh, and I PASSED!!! Wooo hooooo! First female British guide to have taken this new equivalence test and passed. Hoooooray!