This is a national obsession in Switzerland, and hikers are well catered for. About 50,000km of trails leads through many kinds of terrain in this outstandingly beautiful country. Hiking times are given on the signposts, and trails are graded according to the degree of difficulty.
The organisation responsible for sustaining the trails and for co-ordinating local hiking associations is the Swiss Hiking Federation, Im Hirshalm 49, 4125 Riehen (tel: (61) 606 9340; fax: (61) 606 9345; e-mail: email@example.com). The Federation supplies maps and guide books, which may be purchased at a discount by members. Guided walks, weekend trips and holidays are often organised by the Federation and the local associations, and these are open to individuals and groups.
Most associations run at least 1 day’s walk per week (usually on Sunday), and these do not need to be booked in advance. All the trips are led by experienced volunteer guides.
Details of walks and addresses of local hiking associations are given in the free booklet Switzerland on Foot, available from Switzerland Tourism or directly from the Swiss Hiking Federation.
Programmes of walks are also published on the Federation’s website. In addition to the above excursions, there are also ‘Radio Walks’, which are announced during the season every Sunday at 0655hrs on Swiss Radio DRS in the Guten Morgen programme. The meeting point, cost, timing and route can be found online (website: www.swisshiking.ch) and also on the special telephone line of Swiss Hiking Trails (tel: (61) 606 9346). Participants only need to turn up at the station or meeting point as announced.
These are extensively practised, and include ice climbing, climbing, ski touring, deep-snow skiing, heli-skiing, snow boarding, and glacier walking. Swiss Association of Mountain Guides publishes a list of approved mountaineering centres as well as a list of approved guides. Staffs at the centres are all highly qualified, and there are strict rules governing leader-participant ratios.
More information can be obtained from Schweizerischer Bergführerverband, Hadlaubstrasse 49, 8006 Zurich (tel: (1) 360 5366; fax: (1) 360 5369; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org) or from Switzerland Tourism.
Accommodation is available in the mountains either in the form of alpine huts or chalets. As these are open according to the season, visitors should check availability with local tourist boards before arriving. It is essential to book in advance.
There are 3300 km of well-marked interlinked trails, most of which offer trouble free cycling. Bicycles can be rented at most railway stations and at many other locations. Those rented at stations can then be returned to any station at the end of the tour. There are also inline skating routes throughout the country, varying in difficulty from easy to very challenging.
Lakes such as Lugano, Lake Geneva, and Neuchâtel offer water-skiing , sailing, and canoeing. Rowing can also be done on Lake Zurich.