in Switzerland & Austria
ABOVE: Inline skaters near Hagenwil, Canton
Ask a foreigner to list summer outdoor
sports in Switzerland and Austria, and the answers are likely to include hiking,
mountaineering, and bicycling.
An adventure traveler might think to add paragliding
or white-water rafting, but most
tourists would fail to mention one of the region's fastest-growing sports:
Inline skating has exploded in popularity over the last few years. Today,
Switzerland alone has an estimated 800,000 inline skaters. Cities like Zürich,
Lucerne, and Vienna have weekly "group skates" that combine exercise
with socializing, and a number of skate parks (including a few with indoor
facilities) exist in the two countries. Racing is also growing in popularity,
and one of the better-known marathons--the Swiss Inline Cup Engadine/St. Moritz
in early July--draws more than 4,500 participants from 20 countries.
Still, you needn't be social or athletic to enjoy Rollerblading
in Switzerland and Austria. If you'd rather enjoy the scenery than risk life and
limb on an Alpine pass, you'll find plenty of flat or gently rolling paths where
skating isn't synonymous with suicide. For more information, see the links below.
Equipment: Bring or rent?
Don't count on finding skate rentals in Switzerland or Austria. Although some
shops may offer skate hire, there's no guarantee that you'll find equipment in
the areas where you want to skate. It's better to play it safe by bringing your
own skates, helmet, pads, etc. (You'll also save money that way, since prices
tend to be high in Switzerland and Austria.)
Rules of the road
In Switzerland, skating on public streets is allowed only in areas of light
traffic such as residential neighborhoods or secondary roads in the country.
Skating is permitted on bicycle paths, hiking trails, and sidewalks only when it
doesn't interfere with cycle or pedestrian traffic.
In Austria, public skating is limited to pedestrian-only zones, sidewalks,
urban bike paths, and rural trails marked with blue cycling or hiking signs.
Remember: In both Switzerland and Austria, skaters must always give
pedestrians the right of way on sidewalks and defer to bicycles on bicycle
When you're unsure about where to skate, check with the local tourist office,
a skate shop, or a skating club.
Swiss and Austrians are very insurance-conscious, so it's a good idea to make
sure that your household or renters' insurance covers your liability for
personal injuries caused by skating accidents abroad.
Be sure to check your medical coverage, since you may be one of the more than
60,000 people injured in Swiss and Austrian skating accidents every year. (To
find companies that offer short-term medical and trip-interruption insurance for
travelers, see the Travel
Insurance article at Europe for
Swiss Skating Links
Kathie Fry, who may be the world's leading guide to the world of inline
skating, offers a good collection of Swiss skating links.
The last time we checked, this site hadn't been updated in a while, but much
of the information about skating around the Bodensee (Lake Constance) is still
Austrian Skating Links
Kathie Fry has an extensive collection of skating links for Vienna and other
Photo © Switzerland Tourism. All rights reserved.