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Maintaining the footpaths - a challenging job

Switzerland's network of footpaths enjoys its well-deserved reputation way beyond our national borders. Our pathways through the natural world are a hiking paradise. The network is an essential pillar of summer tourism, meeting the need of many guests to recharge their batteries in the great outdoors. Through the construction and care of footpaths, cantons, local authorities and walkers' associations make an important contribution to promoting healthy and sustainable leisure activities.

Some Facts:

  • The network of Swiss footpaths covers over 65,000km (40,000 miles) compared to its road network of 71,000 km and rail network of 5,200 km.
  • 50,000 signposts, many erected by volunteers, show you where to go and often how long it will take you. 
  • This costs SFr. 53 million annually and an estimated 41 million walking days are enjoyed on the network.

In order to ensure an attractive as well as safe network, structural understanding and careful maintenance are essential. A wide range of specialist skills is also necessary. Whenever possible, simple resources using mostly naturally-occurring materials are used. Generally speaking, it is local authorities who are responsible for the construction and care of footpaths, however, in Adelboden there is an agreement with the tourist authority who employ three summertime caretakers. Then there is the work of area manager, Alfred Zimmermann, who is in charge of signposting and integration with the Bernese walking network. In Adelboden alone, these cover almost 300 km (186 miles) at a cost of several hundred thousand Swiss Francs, which comes from the local authority, Adelboden Tourism, the mountain transport companies, various transport providers and many other sponsors.

In neighbouring Frutigen, Niklaus Jenzer from the town council is responsible for the network of footpaths, ensuring that his 120km section is regularly inspected and maintained. Teams from the local authority, civil defence force and also volunteers carry out this work with distinction and the necessary specialist know-how. According to Jenzer, several paths require almost daily attention following an extremely wet summer.

In Adelboden there are three men whose job it is to keep the network of footpaths in top condition. It is understandable then that following a storm or heavy rainfall not everything can be put in order within half a day. Each year, all the pathways are walked on, inspected and repaired several times.

How the routes are marked
Yellow-only marked paths:
Suitable for anyone with strong footwear.

White-Red-White marked paths:
Suitable only for proficient, sure-footed mountain walkers equipped with weather-proof clothing and gripping soles.

White-Blue-White marked paths:
Suitable only for skilled, experienced walkers familiar with mountain climbing. Alpine equipment necessary, some clambering and areas of packed snow possible.

Rules for mountain hikers
1. Plan each tour very carefully and pay attention to having the right equipment. Make sure someone knows your intended destination.
2. Monitor the weather situation constantly and, if you need to, turn back in good time.
3. Show respect for agriculture and keep your dog on a lead when close to farms.
4. Never leave any litter behind. Always take it with you.