Sports and the Outdoors
Switzerland has developed an extensive network of bike trails that crisscross the country, following mountain passes or rivers or set up with a specific theme in mind. The nine national bike routes include the popular (and easy) Mitteland route number 5, the scenic Alpine Panorama route number 4, and the steep Graubünden route number 6. Switzerland also claims 54 regional bike routes. Detailed maps can be bought at kiosks and post offices. A user-friendly website provides information about difficulty, route length, and road conditions. If you want to enjoy the ride without worrying about luggage, several companies offer guided tours. These range from an easy day's ride to a two-week Alpine excursion, with sightseeing side trips and stays at deluxe hotels along the way.
Bike Switzerland. 22 rue des Grottes, Geneva, 1201. 078/6016957; www.bikeswitzerland.com.
DuVine Adventures. 667 Somerville Ave., Somerville, Massachusetts, 02143. 888/396–5383; www.duvine.com.
SwitzerlandMobility Foundation. Spitalg. 34, Bern, 3011. 031/3180128; www.switzerlandmobility.org.
Crisscrossed with trails, the Swiss Alps are a hiker's playground. Yellow trail indicators are standard throughout the country. White-red-white signs signal hiking paths, while blue-white-blue designations indicate steep paths requiring climbing equipment. Hiking is an especially popular pastime in the German-speaking areas, such as the Berner Oberland. For suggested hiking itineraries, including lists of huts for overnight stays, contact regional tourist offices or the Schweizer Wanderwege (Swiss Hiking Trail Federation); many newspaper stands, train stations, and bookstores also carry detailed topographical maps with marked trails.
Switzerland's legendary ski slopes are bolstered by excellent transportation networks, plentiful vacation packages, and impressive visitor facilities.
Slope difficulty levels are indicated with color codes. A black slope is the most difficult (expert level); red indicates intermediate levels; blue is for those with basic skills. Many resorts also have short "bunny" or learner slopes (500 feet long) for novices. If these slopes are accessible from the village, they are usually free. A daily bulletin of weather conditions is available by calling 0900/162333 (3 SF connection then 1.50 SF per minute); reports are in the local language.
Serious skiers may want to join the Swiss Alpine Club. It's not necessary to be fluent in a local language to enjoy the club's excursions, which often involve a lot of climbing. A colorful booklet of mountain-club refuges called "Hütten der Schweizer Alpen" can be ordered for 48 SF from the club’s comprehensive website.