Skiing in Verbier? Yan Felder will arrange your perfect day
Matt Carroll put him to the test
Saturday 10 January 2009
If you're heading to Verbier this season, there's one phone number you should put in your diary: that of local fixer, Yan Felder. "Whatever you want, I can organise it," he declares, as we bask in the spring sunshine outside Le Fer à Cheval pub. It seems like an ambitious boast – especially as he doesn't know what I'm going to ask for yet – but Yan has a reputation for pulling off the impossible.
It all started six years ago, when he was working in one of the ski shops in town: "Some customers were complaining because my colleague was telling them it was impossible to organise a ski guide for them. I said, 'This is crazy; everything is possible! I'll organise it for you.' It just grew from there." So what exactly could you arrange for me? "Anything," he states confidently. "Mountain guides, staff for your chalet, VIP parties, flowers. You name it."
Organising your chalet host might not be the most complex task you can think of, but over the years, Yan has handled much trickier requests. "Quite often I get VIPs asking for girls to be sent to their apartment – or drugs. But I won't do either of those things – I don't want to end the season in prison." Although the company has a name – Les Clefs d'Or, or "the golden keys" – you won't find it advertised. With Verbier's reputation for attracting celebs like Diana Ross, David Bowie, Prince Andrew and James Blunt, most of Yan's clients are the kind of people who appreciate discretion.
What was the most extravagant thing that he'd set up? "A Swedish guy asked me to arrange something special for his new bride. I said, 'OK, be at the top of the Savoleyre ski area by 10am tomorrow'. When they arrived, I had a helicopter pick them up and take them to a spot in the backcountry, where I'd organised a picnic with champagne."
Throughout our conversation, Yan takes calls on his mobile phone: arranging this, confirming that To find out whether he's all talk, I decide to set him a challenge: find me some fresh powder. This may not sound like the hardest task in the world, but it hasn't snowed for days and virgin snow generally lasts less than a morning here. Yan could be up against it.
He seems unfazed. With a nonchalant "no problem", we grab our gear and head up to the area known as Les Ruinettes. Yan cuts quite a dash on the slopes, with a seven-foot pair of skis and a huge green jump suit.
From Les Ruinettes, we take the lift up to Les Attelas, ski down towards Col des Mines and nip under the wire near Lac des Vaux. The next leg in our quest for untracked treasure takes us along one of the scariest traverses I've ever done. While Yan sets off like a little mountain goat, I scrabble along nervously – trying to avoid looking at the sheer drop below, to my right. One slip-up here, and I'd be catapulted down the mountain like a rag doll.
Fifteen minutes later, I finally make it across – safe, sound and utterly exhausted. Our reward is a whole hill of virgin snow, as requested. As far as everyone else in Verbier is concerned, the fresh stuff disappeared days ago; yet, true to his word (and reputation) Yan has had no problem in granting my wish.
To get back into Verbier, we've got a whole new face of fresh stuff to ride before we rejoin the pistes for the run back into town. We eventually make it home after an amazing afternoon where untracked snow is like gold dust. Of course, if I told you the exact location of this secret powder stash I'd have to kill you. But suffice to say it's not hard to find – provided you know the right people.
Les Clefs d'Or organises various bespoke activities and facilities in Verbier, including wine cellars and staff for chalets, guiding, parties and excursions. For more info, contact Yan Felder: 00 41 786 005 525, or e-mail email@example.com
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