ABOUT OUR STAFF
YSE’s staff are the best in the business.
Every travel firm comes out with stuff like that, of course, which must really irritate the customers, who know that this page was written before the staff were employed!
What we really mean is that our staff always have been the best in the business, that the company with the best selection of catered chalets in Val d’Isère, Europe’s best ski resort, wouldn’t last long if they weren’t, and that as usual, this year, finding, training, motivating, supervising and keeping the best staff in the business will be our main task.
The first people you will have to deal with are in the UK office. It may be safe to book a hotel online in a matter of minutes, but chalets are all different and the rooms in each vary greatly. You need to speak to someone informed.
So you may be reassured to hear that our office staff all know Val d’Isère and our chalets inside out. Fiona Easdale, the E of YSE, runs the UK office with the same commitment with which she ran the gates in the 1976 Winter Olympics, and we take great pride in our reputation for giving honest, accurate information and not trying to sell you something at all costs.
For any catered chalet holiday firm, its resort team is its greatest asset. There is no lack of smart chalets nowadays, but there is a huge shortage of good staff to run them.
Anybody in Val d’Isère will tell you how good YSE’s resort staff are. 75% of our bookings are from former guests or their friends, and a significant proportion re-book the day they get home. This is entirely thanks to our staff.
We probably start with the best applicants. Working for a small, tightly-run firm only appeals to people who want to be part of a competent, dedicated team. Cool dudes who reckon the world owes them a paid ski holiday don’t even waste their time applying.
We like our new staff to be as skilled and calm as the old hands by the time their first guests arrive, so they spend two to four weeks practising before the season even begins. They cook and shop and clean and service dishwashers until we’re happy to trust them with our precious chalets and your precious holiday.
Every winter many of our key chefs and chalet girls come back to work for us again. So we can guarantee some extraordinarily good cuisine, and also presume that our team enjoyed last season. While you neither know nor care if the staff in a hotel are happy, you do in a chalet. A chef or chalet girl on the point of resignation cooks badly, cleans worse, and can turn the milk sour on your morning cereal!
To be sure of both catching the best staff and keeping them on-side until May, we pay very good wages, lodge our team well, and arrange ski passes and good skis. We help them get the most from their season with everything from free ski lessons to discounts on shampoo, and help sort out anything from uptight guests to overtight ski boots.
John Yates-Smith, the YS of YSE, is always in the resort, not just to supervise our team, but also in case they need help, fall ill or just feel homesick. While the norm is to lose between 50% and 75% of one’s staff over a season, we average 5%.
And we are famous for having civilised guests. Meeting pleasant people is a major reason to do a season.
Needless to say, while they are flexible and adaptable, our staff don’t work every single hour of the day. Breakfast tends to begin at around 08.00, cooked breakfast is available until 09.30, and if you haven’t surfaced by 10.45, they will assume that you want a lie-in, and won’t subject you to our 100dB vacuum cleaners. Your room will be doubly well cleaned the next day. By the same token, our staff expect to be on duty again from around 18.00 until approximately 21.30 or 22.00.
Whilst we have strong opinions on food and never let cooks loose on guests until we are happy with everything they do, we leave our cooks and chefs a free hand to cook what they like cooking and, more importantly, what their guests want to eat.
So you won’t see the cooking-by-numbers, with five fixed menus and pre-ordained shopping lists, which is the stroke of genius by which some of our competitors turn school-leavers into chefs.
In order to keep all of our promises without wearing our team out, we also have a high ratio of staff to guests. This means neither illness nor injury can leave you cooking your own breakfast – though do please note that two breakfasts are self-service with croissants and pains au chocolat delivered to the chalet.
With so many regular guests, we are under enormous pressure to maintain quality. Having John Yates-Smith on hand (and, in particular, his deputy Annabel Clifton) helps us do so, but to be doubly sure we take your feedback on the day you leave. Praise and gratitude are passed on, while any suggestion or criticism is debated at great length and acted on if possible.
If our staff this winter are not the best in the business, we will be very surprised.