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Zephyr Inline Skate Tours Q and A

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Allan Wright
Would you leave the country with this man?
Copyright © Zephyr Adventures

At a skating tour presentation I attended in Southern California Zephyr Adventures owner Allan Wright answered questions asked by local skaters about his skating holidays in Europe and the United States.

A couple of years ago I attended a slide show and breakfast, presented by Zephyr Inline Skate Tours at the Belmont Brewery in Long Beach, California (and no, we didn't have BEER for breakfast). Would I Take One of Zephyr's Trips? I'll answer that question at the end of this article.

I will begin by saying I have done a lot of traveling. Some of it has been rough traveling, like tracking gorillas in Zaire, and some not so rough, like hanging out for a few weeks in the Seychelles Islands. (The only thing rough about that trip was getting there from Los Angeles - 33 hours!) What I'm trying to say is, I don't think of myself as the kind of person who books a packaged tour, and especially not a tour where I will be traveling with a large group of people I don't know.

But I keep hearing about these great skating trips being offered by companies in Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, the United States, and other places. And I have to admit - the idea of zooming around Europe on skates, while someone else handles all the travel details, does have its appeal.

So I attended Zephyr's presentation with two goals in mind: #1 - to learn what all the buzz is about, and #2 - to have an enjoyable morning with a group of local skaters. Oh - and #3! To show off my new 5-wheel skates (I made everybody look at them - even total strangers).

I learned a lot about Zephyr tours at that presentation, including one surprising fact that changed my entire outlook on those trips. One reason I thought a Zephyr skating trip might not be for me, was because even though I enjoy skating with a large group of people on a Friday night in Santa Monica, a week of forced togetherness might be a bit much (depending on the group of people).

But I found out today, that on a Zephyr trip, the participants don't all skate together in a big pack, the way I had always imagined. Each morning, everyone is given a choice of 3 possible routes for that day's destination. For most trips, there are short (10-12 mile), medium (20-25 mile) and long (30-35 mile) routes to choose from. You are given route instructions, some tips to help you along the way, and a friendly "See you tonight!"

I'm exaggerating a little. There are 2 or 3 guides on each trip, and SOME of the participants will skate with the guides (I'm sure you could if you wanted to). There is also a van with a cell phone in case you get lost. But it was interesting to hear that you don't have to skate with a large group of people, unless you want to. You can be more or less on your own, if you prefer, and do each skate at your own pace, stopping anywhere you want, for as long you want. This makes a Zephyr trip sound much more appealing. I might feel like skating with a large group of people, but I might just feel like skating alone - or perhaps with one special person!

Here are some questions people asked at the presentation along with the answers given by Zephyr owner Allan Wright and Minnesota tour guide, Mike Merriman.

Questions and Answers

What Destinations Do You Offer?
In 2000, there are trips to France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Florida, Amish Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Nantucket, and Martha's Vineyard.

How Much Does a Trip Cost?
Zephyr tours run from $495 for a 2 night trip through Amish country, to $1,765 for 6 nights in Switzerland's Rhone Valley. A best buy is Zephyr's 9 night "European Night Skates" tour for $1,395 ($155 per night).

What is included in the cost?
The cost does not include transportation from your city to the tour starting point, but it does include double-occupancy accommodations, guide services, van support, local transportation (trains, shuttles, ferries), and usually most meals.

How Many Skaters Are On Each Trip?
No trip will have more than 24 skaters, and each trip must have at least 7 to 10 skaters (depending on the destination).

Would I Feel Comfortable Traveling Alone?
40% of the skaters on Zephyr's 1999 trips were traveling alone. Zephyr can arrange for two solo travelers to share a room, or travelers can pay a bit extra to have their own room.

Can I Bring a Friend Who Doesn't Skate?
Your friend can ride a bicycle, if you select one of the bicycle-friendly tours (the Netherlands, Switzerland, Martha's Vineyard, and Pennsylvania)

Are There Any Age Limits For Skaters?
Most of the skaters are between 20 and 60, but there have been skaters as young as 12 and as old as 70. There are no hard age limits.

Are the Tours too Hard for Beginners?
If you are an advanced beginner, you should be fine on most of these trips. You may want to skate the shortest route each day (10 to 12 miles) and you can always elect to ride in the van for part of any day.

Are the Tours Too Easy for 5-Wheel Skaters?
Zephyr tours are designed to accommodate skaters with all levels of ability. No 5-wheel skater has ever complained that a Zephyr tour was too easy.

Are There Any Hills?
Most tours have completely flat routes and some are mostly flat. The Pennsylvania Amish tour has some hills, but you will be taught to skate those hills by certified instructors.

What Happens If It Rains?
If it happens to rain on a particular day, there are several possibilities. Sometimes the group will rent bicycles, and continue on the planned route. Other times they will skate indoors and have an "instruction day". Another possibility is to do a non-skating activity that day.

What Kind of Body Protection is Required?
Helmet and wrist guards are required. Knee pads and elbow pads are recommended.

What Kind of Skates Are Recommended
It's very important to buy the most comfortable skates you can find. Some 5-wheel skaters find that a 5-wheel fitness skate is more comfortable for a long trip like this, than a true speedskate, because of the extra padding.

What Kind of Socks Are Recommended?
Allen: "Plain cotton socks have always worked fine for me"

Are All of the Guides Employee Full Time?
Two Zephyr guides are employed full time, and the others are hired seasonally.

Would I Take a Zephyr Skate Tour?

I think it would be fun to take one of Zephyr's trips if I was in the mood for a no-stress, vacation where I could exercise (skate) all day and relax in the evenings, and not even think about the hassles often associated with traveling in an unfamiliar place where you don't speak the language.

Would I feel comfortable going on one of Zephyr's trips by myself? That one is easy! Sure - why not? I would have a wonderful time skating every day and reading and relaxing in the evenings. Right now that sounds like paradise.

If you would like to learn more about Zephyr trips, see the Zephyr adventures Web site or email your postal address to Zephyr and ask for one of their brochures.

Zephyr Adventures
PO Box 16, Red Lodge,
Montana 59068 USA
Phone (Local): 406-818-0001
Phone (Toll Free): 888-758-8687
Web Site:

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