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I will be going to a ski resort in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. It’s also very popular for winter hiking and has a lot of routes set out. Because I can’t go skiing this year I’d like to do some hiking around the lake and possibly down the mountain.

I bought some good boots and I have a good jacket and thermos clothes from skiing but I have a few questions:

  • Can I wear a thermos legging only? My ski pants do not allow a lot of freedom of movement.

  • How does getting off a chairlift work? I won’t be as fast as the skiiers and I might even slip and fall. I’m a little nervous about this. Will the operators spot me/help me?

  • is it generally safe for a young woman to go hike in the mountains alone?

17

I have never been in the area, but from what I can see in the Internet, there indeed are a lot of winter hiking routes in Lenzerheide. And all those routes are signposted. In fact, you can see a map and get all the hike descriptions right here: https://lenzerheide.com/en/winter/winter-activities/winter-hiking/winter-walking-tours

I would recommend starting with the hikes that are rated as easy, and if you are having no problems with those, you can upgrade yourself to the ones of moderate difficulty. The difficulty usually describes the distance, and the hight meters, but can also be because of technical difficulty, so read the description well.

While there is no danger to females or any other human beings from either wildlife or other people in Switzerland, one should not underestimate the mountains. Even more so in winter. Make sure you will be able to walk down on your own, or catch a lift down before its closing time. Make sure you have enough clothes and something to drink.

One more important thing to pay attention to while in the mountains in winter, are the avalanches. While most hikes should be put in places that are safe, do read descriptions or ask around to be sure. Also, on different days the avalanche dangers might vary. General avalanche dangers can be checked here: https://www.slf.ch/en/avalanche-bulletin-and-snow-situation.html#avalanchedanger. Ask around and do not go on hikes that are closed. They usually are closed because of avalanche danger.

With regard to clothes, make sure that you are wearing layers of clothing that are easy to take off/put on. You do not want to get cold, but you also do not want to sweat. Take some extra base-layer clothes if you are planing to get a break in a hut. You will probably sweat in any case, and it is nice to change into something dry. Walking with just thermo leggings might work, but be sure to bring along something waterproof/warmer. The weather in the mountains is likelly to change, and you do not want to risk.

You should not worry too much about the lifts though, because either the accomodations are already made for pedestrians, or you will not be able to get on them. Most lifts where pedestrians are allowed will be cabin lifts anyway. And if you will need to take a chair lift, the lift guys will be aware of you. You probably can see what kind of lifts (if any) you need to take in the descriptions of the hikes.

You did not ask anything about the equipment you should take, but I will give some tips anyway. You should absolutelly bring some sticks. This could be either normal hiking sticks equiped with snow baskets, or just a pair of regular ski sticks. While most of the hikes can probably be done in waterproof winter hiking shoes, you might consider renting snow shoes for easier walking. This could be especially useful with fresh snow. Some of the hikes will, however, be on roads, you do not need snow shows for these.

8

Nice place to go!

  • Can I wear a thermos legging only? My ski pants do not allow a lot of freedom of movement.

Obviously depends on the weather: On a sunny day with no wind you can wear whatever you want, if there is snowfall and/or strong winds, having no protection against those wont be fun. Also if there is fresh snow overnight and there is snow on top of the groomed trails, you will get wet legs. I'd just try and take the ski pants with me, such that you can put them on if it's too cold.

  • How does getting off a chairlift work? I won’t be as fast as the skiiers and I might even slip and fall. I’m a little nervous about this. Will the operators spot me/help me?

No problem whatsover, all stations are supervised at all times and sometimes even routinely slow down for people on foot. They will certainly slow down if you have problems. In general even on "normal" speed for a mobile person it's no problem to exit the lift, just walk briskly away.

  • is it generally safe for a young woman to go hike in the mountains alone?

On a nice day there's lots of people around, so very likely you won't be secluded and come upon other hikers frequently. And generally, you don't really need to worry about this. Obviously I can't guarantee anything, but solo hiking is common in Switzerland, admittedly more males, but that's from my perspective more an ego/accomplishment thing than security. Ah yeah and a tangential note just because they exist: All that doesn't count for Apres-Ski-Bars, there the normally quite high alcohol-level comes with the usual problems, but it's not like you need to go there ;)

Also while (we) Swiss people are generally pretty reserved, they are still nice (I know this is cliched, but it applies often :P ): If you would like to join with a group for the hike, just approach any group starting hiking asking whether you can join. If you speak English only, look for young or English speakers - if they don't speak English well (or just think they don't), they may get on the defense due to that.

Safety wise that's not a problem either: If you get injured it is as mentioned likely to have people around to help. If not you can get help by cell phone. And generally these are groomed trails, so for a young person to injure yourself you need to be quite unlucky. Avalanches are not a problem either on official trails, they are only opened when safe.
Generally you can't compare official posted trails in a ski resort in Switzerland with "going into the mountains". In comparison this is a very well controlled environment for the general public which normally has no/very little awareness of safety principles in mountains. That's not to say it's impossible for anything to happen, but it's unlikely.

  • "On a nice day there's lots of people around, so very likely you won't be alone at all." - Obviously if you go up Männlichen or somewhere similar it will be packed, but it's very easy to get somewhere that you can see half a dozen people all day. (But, yes, there is very little risk of attack). – Martin Bonner Mar 8 '18 at 13:34
  • @MartinBonner That was worded too strongly. What I mean is that these official hikes aren't "secluded", as in you could encounter other hikers at any point/time. – imsodin Mar 8 '18 at 16:08
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I occasionally do winter hiking and here are my 2 cents:

Can I wear a thermos legging only? My ski pants do not allow a lot of freedom of movement.

When doing winter hiking I believe the most important thing is to have good waterproof shoes and clothing. I don't know if your thermos legging are, but in case they are not at the very least buy some waterproof spats.

Still remember that when you are moving you WILL get hot and start sweating. You don't want to have too much clothing on. Make sure to be able to easily put on/off clothes. When moving it is very hot, when stopping you get cold quite quickly. I use summer water proof pants for winter hiking that have zippers for better cooling.

How does getting off a chairlift work? I won’t be as fast as the skiiers and I might even slip and fall. I’m a little nervous about this. Will the operators spot me/help me?

The operators should help you - that is their job. Still I don't find getting off the chairlift much harder in winter. However having nice shoes with good grip helps. Additionally I strongly recommend such shoes for winter hiking. Snowy terrain is slippery especially if there are some uncovered rocks on your path. In general if you don't go over steep terrain I think climbing irons are not necessary.

Is it generally safe for a young woman to go hike in the mountains alone?

Hiking alone in winter might be dangerous as weather changes are quite rapid. A few weeks ago I was at a hike in the mountain and fog appeared out of nowhere in a manner of minutes greatly reducing visibility. From your question it seems you are not very experienced hiker so I would advice you to seek company. If that is not an option here are a few things to take with you:

  • A GPS of some sort - most phones have integrated and they should be good enough
  • A headlamp - in case it gets dark walking can get quite dangerous. A headlamp is of great help and it also is not big/heavy.
  • Some food and something to drink
3

I have been in that area quite a lot, but have only limited experience with it for hiking in the winter (was occupied with skiing most of the time). Nevertheless I can try to give some insight:

  • Yes, you can take lifts, but as far as I know only some are possible for people without skiing equipment: Rothorn I/II and Panoramabahn. Maybe some on the side towards Arosa, but I have not been there enough to know it for sure. The lifts mentioned above are gondolas, i.e. it is quite easy to enter and exit them

  • Depending on where you want to go, it is quite safe, or not so safe. For example taking Rothorn II up to the top, and then taking one of the snowy paths down is always a stupid idea, but taking a tour around the Heidsee is safe, as far as I am concerned.

  • Concerning clothing: I am only wearing stable trousers, such as jeans, and stable boots. Of course gloves, a (light) jacket and something warm for the head. Depending on how fast you walk, prepare to take something of if it gets too warm. Most of the trails usually are free from deep snow, but that depends on the weather.
    Nevertheless, also take care of the avalanche possibilities, even though the probability for them to hit the hiking trails is rather low.
  • Finally some nice trips I would recommend:
    • 207 Mittelberg Parpan
    • 203 Alp Stätz
    • 201 Heidseerunde

Nevertheless I would test all of them. Taking a map with you is recommended, it can be possible to loose GPS in the mountains, even though you have rather good mobile reception throughout the whole valley.

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I will just add or clarify a small detail to all the other good answers:

It is perfectly normal to stop several times to adjust or change clothing. The first stop is usually after five minutes, and is called "a technical stop" in Norway. -- If you find yourself with your head down in the backpack changing clothes more often than you would have expected, you are not stupid: You are Learning and Experimenting!

Enjoy your walks :-)

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Ill just add on the answers already here. I've been to a similar skiing resort before in Switzerland(Riederalp) with my grandparents. They did many hikes there together and its perfectly safe, just dress warm. The liftoperators will gladly help you get off and on the lift.

2

I didn't see anyone say this, perhaps because this area is well-populated?

If you're going alone, let someone know when and where you're going and what time you're expecting to be back.

1

I'll start answering from last question:

  • It's hard to say if it's safe to hike alone. Most people will say No. I believe that in Alps rescue will come in 10-20 min if you are able to call for a help. The thing is it would be very stressful for you. This year me and my friend found a girl in Switzerland Alps. She took a lift to Gornergrat ~3000m, she wanted to go down the mountain and got lost(she was using GPS in her iphone).
  • Operator will help you for sure to get off from chairlift but sometimes it's not allowed to go without skies\snowboard. But you can take a cabin lift.
  • You can go in thermo leggings but only for short hike. The problem it's not waterproof. I would better go in ski pants. What is more important is to have a gaiters to prevent snow from getting inside the boot. I would also take a snow shoes (depends of the route).
  • "Most people will say No." - well, most people here are saying "Yes" (I agree with them). Obviously, take a map and a charged cell-phone. – Martin Bonner Mar 8 '18 at 13:37
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I'd like to address the safety angle specifically: the main things you need to concerned about being alone in the mountains in winter are:

  1. Sudden drastic weather changes
  2. Avalanches
  3. Being stuck in the cold, possibly overnight, because you got lost or injured.

Being on a marked trail and staying on it protects you pretty well against 2 and 3, so make sure you do that - no shortcuts or getting creative! But you can lose the trail, especially if 1 strikes. Specific things you can do to mitigate the remaining risks:

  • Take a GPS smartphone with an offline map of the area.
  • Inform someone where you're going and when you expect to be back.
  • Take enough extra clothes and a flashlight or headlamp so that bad weather and/or nightfall won't be life-threatening.

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