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I would like to hike part of the Alps that go from France to Slovenia, but I'm not sure what type of equipment I'll need. I'm wondering if I need to bring crampons; I have Icetrekkers (Diamond Grip), which are more like traction cleats than crampons. Because I'll be backpacking, I would prefer to know in advance instead of bringing an extra two pounds that I won't end up using.

Update: I'm not looking for equipment advice, which is why I didn't post this to OSE. I want to know if it can be hiked: Are the trails cleared for hikers? Are they even open? Or are the trails open, but not cleared, thus leaving the trails "hike-able" only to those with special equipment and training, such as mountaineers?

Looking at the official Switzerland tourist page and other various pages, I was unable to find any such information.

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That depends entirely on weather conditions and the paths you plan to take. If you stay on cleared roads, your Icetrekkers should be sufficient (and may not even be necessary).

The main problem will be snow, not ice. Hiking paths will generally not be cleared of snow, so you'd need snowshoes or touring skis. Additionally, if there is (or has been) heavy snowfall, orientation can be problematic, and of course avalanches pose a serious risk in many areas.

In general, I'd say that long-distance alpine hiking during winter is not advisable, especially if you don't have previous experience in those conditions. Day (or multi-day) trips are certainly doable when weather conditions are good, you have the right equipment and keep informed about avalanche risks.

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    The problem is that you can't stay on cleared roads. Most alpine passes in Switzerland are not open until spring because there is too much snow to be cleared. I wouldn't really advise against doing something like this unless you have a lot of experience in hiking in these conditions. – RoflcoptrException Sep 1 '13 at 12:56
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    +1, especially for your last paragraph - this is one of those "if you have to ask" questions. – kdgregory Sep 1 '13 at 13:39
  • I agree, heavy snowfall is a killer when it comes to orientation and avalanches. Long distance hiking requires agreeable weather. Winter, my friend, is not one of those agreeable ones! – Ricketyship Sep 3 '13 at 8:06
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The normal hiking trail network is meant to be used, in a rough translation from the German specifications, "during the snow- and ice-free time". Trails are generally not cleared, it would be a huge effort considering how many there are.

There are official winter hiking trails which are cleared, and generally marked with pink signs. (The second tickbox on that map shows you official snowshoe trails, which are of course not cleared of snow.) But they don't form a continuous route across the alps.

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