Preparing for Winter

In Switzerland you must prepare for the winter months. This article covers three areas in which some early preparation and thinking ahead is a good idea and in some cases a matter of safety.
1. Car safety and preparation.
In Switzerland, there is no legal obligation to fit your vehicle with winter tyres. However, drivers must always maintain control of their vehicle. Furthermore, in the case of an accident, the driver may be found liable if the car is not properly equipped for the winter. The insurance company may not cover the full cost of the damage or may even take action against the insured person for negligence.
Don’t leave it until the first snowfall to get winter tyres fitted. October is the usual time and book early with your local garage or car dealer as they get very busy at this time. The garage may have the option of storing your summer tyres for you until you change them back again in March/April. Often there is a late snowfall in March. You should also make sure you have a set of snow chains. They are not mandatory on a country-wide basis, but you must carry and fit chains when conditions demand. The police can stop you and forbid you from travelling further if you do not have chains when required.
2. Personal safety and equipment.
Beginning with what might seem obvious, make sure you have adequate hats, gloves and scarves as well as warm coats in your wardrobe. Depending on where you may have been located prior to Switzerland, you might need a warmer set of winter clothes and accessories. However, these days warmer doesn’t necessarily mean heavy with the option for lots of light layering and down coats to keep us snug, whatever the weather.
In terms of staying safe, being prepared can help us avoid winter accidents. We all know of someone who has fallen and hurt themselves or even broken bones when slipping on icy steps, footpaths or crossing the street. So even if you are not a hiker do think about getting some grippers with spikes for your city shoes to help you stay safe when walking around the city.
For those of us who like to keep hiking all the year round, then boot grippers and hiking sticks are indispensable to enjoy hiking on snow and staying safe on icy patches. Shoe and boot grippers come in many designs and with varying degrees of light or heavy duty. You can find them in the many sports shops in and around Zürich. The important thing is to get the right size so that they fit your shoe/boot snugly and don’t come off as you walk. The best designs have strapping that goes high up over the toe and heel, or ones that have Velcro fasteners to ensure you can’t lose them. Some of the cheap ones will just spring off without you noticing until it is too late!!
If you are an all-year round hiker then you might want some snow shoes so that you can go hiking in the mountains in conditions that require more than your snow boots. Don’t forget that ZIWA Pop-up hike leaders offer hikes throughout the winter, including snowshoe hikes. So, make sure to sign up at to be on the list. If you want to try snowshoeing and you don’t have your own snowshoes, you can rent snowshoes from sports shops in Zürich or at the resort where you plan to hike. That way you can try it out and see if this is something you enjoy before you invest in your own snowshoes.
3. Preparing your garden/balcony.
Apart from preparing ourselves and our cars, if you are a gardener then you will need to think about your plants. Some of them will need bringing indoors, others might need wrapping to protect them from frost. Make sure that outdoor pipes and taps are also wrapped with insulation material to avoid frozen pipes. You can find lots of information on the Internet to help you find the specific winter care that is appropriate for particular plants and trees. Also, there are garden centers that will store your most precious winter plants, at a price.
4. Driveways and paths.
Swiss efficiency with regard to clearing streets, in both cities and rural areas, is rarely to be faulted. However, householders will need to take care of clearing snow and gritting ice if they have driveways and paths of their own. Buy your snow shovels well in advance. A flurry of snow can lead to high demands in the hardware stores and clearing snow without the right equipment is even harder work. Shoveling snow, will of course, help you to keep warm!
The information contained was up to date when published. Elaine Vautier 21-05-2020

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