For many, many years, the École de Ski Français had a monopoly on ski instruction in French ski resorts. The program to become a ski instructor at the ESF, like everything else in France, was and is very rigorous. It involves training for up to two years ("an average of five years training" says a spokesman) and the ESF usually has the best location on the slopes and the most teachers. Their red-and-white uniform, which you can see above, was all over the slopes. A lot of the teachers didn't usually speak English well ("You folLOW me!") but does it really matter? It does, because many, many of the foreign tourists who come to French ski resorts don't speak good French. So much so that in some resorts, you will scarcely hear a word of French on the slopes. Obviously, better English, especially for moniteurs who teach children, would be a huge advantage.
A few years ago the monopoly of the French ski schools came to an end when the EU ruled that foreign ski schools also had the right to teach in French resorts. The subsequent uproar did not mean that these schools were accepted de bonne grace in the resorts. Mais non non non! The English-speaking moniteurs at the new schools were called "the new Polish plumbers" and the ESF says they are underqualified, although the schools retort that the ESF can hire partly qualified and trainee teachers, but that the foreign schools are not allowed to. The competition is bitter. Many French people think that the ESF is actually government-run, which in France gives people a sense of confidence. And just as with government entities, when you are a child on holiday taking a ski class at the École du Ski Français, you must take an exam if you want to go up to the next level! If you pass, you get your coveted little snowflake, your one, two, or three stars, or if you're a little hotshot, even your arrow... which comes in gradations, according to your exam score, of arrowlet, bronze arrow, silver arrow, vermeil arrow, and gold arrow. But don't think you're hot stuff if you get the gold arrow! After that you must pass the Chamois exam. It too comes in five levels.
Of course, you can still have fun even while passing the "exams"-- which are really just skiing tests, but which take up your last day of skiing and come complete with competitive timing, judges and parents cheering on the sidelines. But it does seem very, very French to me that even on vacation, the children are tracked into a hierarchy.