Former GB and Olympic skier Fiona Easdale teamed up with passionate Val d’Isère aficionado John Yates-Smith to form YSE in 1991. They started with 12 chalets and a mailing list made up of friends and family.
John’s brother Dick Yates-Smith, who later set up Dick’s Tea Bar, first introduced John to the slopes of Val d’Isère in 1976, and he has not tired of them yet! At the same time Fiona was training with the British Ski Team and competed in the 1976 Olympics at Innsbruck, coming 18th in the slalom and 15th in the combined events.
So their ski credentials are rock solid!
Fiona and John hope to grow old gracefully surrounded by satisfied customers, happy staff and locals who don’t resent them!
We know that it is impossible to maintain standards across several resorts, and that concentrating on one resort allows us to know the resort and our accommodation perfectly, to have enough weight in town to negotiate the best prices on ski hire or get the pharmacy opened at 2am, while remaining small enough to offer a genuinely personal service. Not many tour operators have a founder on the spot day and night, whose phone is never switched off…
There is no shortage of chalet holiday companies. Each has its own mentality, normally reflecting its directors’ philosophy. YSE’s criteria are simple: first, would we enjoy this? We apply it to all of our chalets. Some are among the most luxurious in Val d’Isère, while others are quite simple. Most have en-suite bathrooms, with just a few bedrooms sharing bathrooms with one other room. But they are all places we’d be happy to stay in ourselves.
We apply the same litmus test to everything we do. We love our chalet food and wine so we aim to serve the best chalet food in the business. We are too old to be hanging around airports or sitting in traffic jams, so we don’t expect our guests to. This is why we travel on Sundays via Lyon Airport, with our own flight and luxury coaches to ensure it all runs smoothly. Even our employees have to pass Fiona’s ‘would-I-want-these-people-as-my-chalet-staff’ test, and if she falls asleep in the interview they don’t get the job!
Will people re-book? Both Val d’Isère and YSE endeavour to provide the sort of experience you’ll want to repeat. 75% of our bookings come from people who’ve been before, or their friends, so we don’t have to waste a lot on advertising, and our guests know what they’re getting. Val d’Isère is a hard act to follow, and so is YSE.
Happy staff? Well, ask them. Most of our staff could easily get another job, but none does, and quite a few come back season after season. Annabel Clifton is in charge of our resort team, and most of her job is about keeping the staff firing on all cylinders so that our guests are looked after properly.
And locals who don’t resent us? After 35 seasons of bringing skiers and snowboarders to Val d’Isère, John Yates-Smith is treated almost as a local. Indeed, his children race in the colours of Val d’Isère and will probably one day teach skiing here. So we have many reasons not to upset the neighbours. We think our guests benefit from staying with a company which is known and trusted locally.
THE SHERBORNE OFFICE
We run the UK side of the business from a very picturesque office in Sherborne, Dorset, next to the 13th century Abbey, which makes us easy to find.
Fiona Easdale runs the operation here, while travel consultants Pippa, Livvie and Sarah deal with your emails and phone calls to make sure your every wish is communicated to John and Annabel and the team in Val d’Isère. They know the resort well and the chalets inside-out, together having stayed in every one of them over the years, and if they ever don’t know the answer they will find out and let you know. John is always only a phonecall away, 24/7, summer and winter. If we think a chalet isn’t right for you, or you’re not right for YSE, we’ll tell you.