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 chalets in 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 holiday
through any high-street travel agent, relying on the hotel’s star
rating, 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 for
not trying to sell you something at all costs.
For any 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. Over 70% of our bookings are from
former guests or their friends, and a significant proportion re-book the day they get back from their holiday. 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
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 holidays.
This winter, more than ever of our
key chefs and chalet girls are coming back. So we can guarantee some
extraordinarily good cuisine, and also presume that our team enjoyed
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 above-average wages with a large end-of-season bonus, lodge our team well, and supply 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. One chef told us that his least loveable YSE guest was still nicer than the nicest client on his charter yacht. (We would have to ask anyone mean to our staff to leave, though it hasn’t happened in twenty years!) 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 8am, cooked breakfast is available until 9.30, 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 6pm until approximately 9.30 or 10.00.
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 staff a free hand to cook what they
like cooking or, more importantly, what their guests want to eat.
So you won’t see the
cooking-by-numbers, with six 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 that neither illness nor injury can leave you cooking
your own breakfast, except on the staff’s weekly day off.
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.