SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

DISCOVER SWITZERLAND

How to keep safe and avoid problems when hiking in the Swiss Alps

Switzerland is a perfect place to go hiking with its thousands of marked trails. However, hundreds of people get into accidents while trekking every year, and some die. Here is what you need to know to be safe.

How to keep safe and avoid problems when hiking in the Swiss Alps
(Photo by Colton Miller on Unsplash)

The Swiss mountains are one of the country’s most notable and most visited sites. There are activities to enjoy during all seasons and hiking the Swiss Alps is something that people of all ages enjoy in the winter or summer months.

However, mountain rescuers are called every year to help people in emergencies. Last year, there were 1,525 cases of hikers in distress – a number higher than in any other type of sport. In 2021, there were only 500 emergency calls from skiers and 342 made by mountain bikers.

READ ALSO: Why getting rescued in the Swiss Alps could cost you thousands

Bruno Hasler, who is responsible for mountain emergency statistics at the Swiss Alpine Club SAC, says that many people overestimate themselves and that is dangerous. “The hikers need to be better informed. The authorities must inform people as well as possible about the dangers of mountain hiking”, he told public broadcaster SRF.

What are the main recommendations when hiking?

The first recommendation is to make a realistic self-assessment. Mountain hiking is an endurance sport and people planning on doing a trek should avoid time pressure and choose their trails and times well.

In that sense, it is essential to make careful route planning and evaluate the length, altitude, difficulty and current conditions (including weather forecast) of the trek. Thunderstorms, snow, wind and cold significantly increase the risk of accidents.

Don’t forget to plan alternative routes and keep emergency rescue numbers on hand (REGA 1414 and the european emergency number 112).

READ ALSO : Should you buy supplemental health insurance in Switzerland?

Take practical equipment for your hiking conditions and the proper footwear too. In a backpack, take as little as possible but as much as necessary, aiming to keep it light but full of valuable things such as sun protection, a first aid kit, rescue blanket, water and a mobile phone.

The most common cause of accidents is falling because of slipping or tripping, so be sure to walk on marked paths (reducing the risk of getting lost) and keep a sure foot and safe pace.

Don’t forget to take regular breaks not only for eating and drinking (necessary to maintain performance and concentration) but also to enjoy the landscape.

Be responsible for the children in the group, treks that require long-lasting concentration are not suitable for children and in passages with risk of falling, and one adult can only look after one child, according to the Swiss Alpine Club. Small groups are the best for hiking because they ensure mutual assistance and flexibility at the same time.

Rega on a rescue mission in the Swiss Alps. Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The PACE checklist

The so-called PACE checklist helps hikers keep track of the most important things. PACE means plan, assess, consider, and evaluate, Swiss Alpine Club SAC says.

READ ALSO: Five beautiful Swiss villages located near Alpine lakes

Plan your route and duration and give yourself extra time and alternatives. Inform someone else about your trip. Assess if the hike is suitable for you, and do not undertake challenging trips yourself. Consider if you have what you need for the walk, like sturdy hiking shoes, protection against harsh weather and food and water supplies.

Finally, evaluate while hiking. See if you are too tired, keep eating, drinking and resting regularly and pay attention to the time you need and any changes in the weather. Do not leave the marked trail and turn back in time if necessary.

What to do in case of an accident?

If there are accidents during your hike, you should first provide life-saving help to anyone seriously injured and then call emergency services. Do not leave the wounded alone and do not put yourself at risk.

Mark the accident area clearly and give signals. The international emergency call sign consists of giving a sign (such as a flashing light or waving a cloth) six times a minute and then repeating it after one minute.

READ ALSO: Rega: What you need to know about Switzerland’s air rescue service

For helicopters, holding both your arms up (making a V shape) signals that you need help, while keeping one arm up and another down (forming a diagonal line with your arms) means you do not need help.

If you see animals, keep your distance and do not disturb them. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

What do I do if I see animals on my hike?

It’s common to find animals while hiking in the Swiss alps, especially cows in the pastures. A cow will protect their calves, so keep your distance. Do not touch the animals, and keep dogs on a leash.

Slowly and carefully move around at a distance and continue your trek.

You may occasionally find herds that dogs protect. It’s possible to inform yourself online in advance to find out where these herds are and avoid them. Still, remember that packs and their guardian dogs should be disturbed as little as possible. So stay calm and keep your distance – avoid any brisk movements.

If you are hiking with your dog, put it on a leash and slowly and calmly detour around the livestock.

If a guard dog barks and runs in your direction, try to stay calm and give the dog time to assess the situation. Stay far from the herd, don’t run or make sudden movements. You can use a stick to keep the dog at a distance by stretching them out, but don’t raise it or wave it around.

Once the dogs have accepted your presence and stopped barking, continue at a slow pace on your way.

Don’t forget: the Swiss rescue number is 1414 or you can also reach them using the European emergency number 112.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

EXPLAINED: How to legally hire a cleaner in Switzerland

In today’s busy world, cleaners are indispensable help for many households, but you may be surprised to find that hiring one (legally) in Switzerland is not as straightforward as you think. Here’s how you do it the right way.

EXPLAINED: How to legally hire a cleaner in Switzerland

First things first, there are two ways to hire a cleaner legally: you can become an employer yourself, or use a cleaning agency that will put you in touch with a cleaner. The latter will also take care of all the administration and is generally far more convenient (if your cleaning person is off sick for instance, you will be provided with a different cleaner) albeit, more expensive. The agency also assumes all ancillary costs such as AHV and insurance.

However, some people prefer to be more in control and hire a cleaner on their own. Here’s the lowdown on how to do that:

Draw up a contract

First, it is crucial to sit down with your cleaner and establish what kind of tasks and in what capacity they will be required to work for you. While a written employment contract is not mandatory, it is often recommended so you can both agree on the most important key points such as wages, payment method, working hours and areas of responsibility.

Additionally, if your cleaner is not Swiss, make sure they have the necessary work permit. If they are a recognised refugee or temporarily admitted in Switzerland, their employment must be reported prior to beginning to work for you.

After you have drawn up a contractual agreement, you will need to register with your local Ausgleichkasse. In order to register your cleaner, you will need to provide their necessary personal information, such as their AHV number. Ask your cleaner if he or she has a spouse and if they already receive family allowances. If not, you must also register them with a Familienausgleichskasse.

READ MORE: What is the average salary for (almost) every job in Switzerland?

Wages

Cleaners in Switzerland earn an average of 31 francs per hour, but how much you choose to pay your cleaner is ultimately up to you – and varies from canton to canton.

Should your cleaner be required to work irregular hours, make sure to agree an hourly wage including holiday allowance. A holiday surcharge of 8.33 per cent is usual across Switzerland and means that the salary is paid in for four weeks of vacation per year. Alternatively, should you require your cleaner regularly, a monthly salary can be agreed.

A home in Geneva.

A home in Geneva. Photo by Edi Bouazza on Unsplash

On January 1st 2023 the Swiss Federal Council adjusted the minimum wages for domestic workers working over 5 hours a week to an hourly rate of CHF 19.50 to 23.55.

READ ALSO:

However, when agreeing on a wage for your cleaner do not forget about the deductions. You will have to deduct 6.4 percent from the gross salary for AHV and IV contributions as well as unemployment insurance and 5 percent withholding tax.

If you register for the simplified accounting procedure – such as with KLARA Home, a digital assistant that helps you hire and insure domestic workers in accordance with the law -, your employee’s taxes will be automatically deducted from their wage, and it spares you having to fill out a wage statement at the end of the year.

Register them with an approved accident insurer. 

As a rule, a cleaner will only work a few hours per week for any household. Despite this, you will have to make a few key arrangements for this work to be conducted legally.

Remember that every person living and working in Switzerland must be registered with an accident insurer, so be sure to register your cleaner with one, as health insurances only cover for non-occupational accidents. Should you require your cleaner for more than eight hours a week, you must also insure them against non-occupational accidents.

What about other obligations?

Once your cleaner is registered, all you need to do is report their gross salary to the compensation office at the end of the year. The insurer will then create a statement of the social security contributions and bill you for them.

SHOW COMMENTS