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Destler Dodge

As I sat across from a nude Rich Hauver, I wondered if the rest of the people I interviewed over the phone had been completely unclothed at the time, too.  

We were on the first floor of an inconspicuous two-story house on Vassar Street with an in-ground pool, hot tub and sauna in the basement right below us. This house serves as the main meeting place for Naturist Rochester. Hauver serves as the treasurer, swim host, scheduler and “benevolent despot” of this group.

Naturists like Hauver prioritize a connection with nature a little more than their nudist counterparts, although the terms ‘naturist’ and ‘nudist’ can be interchangeable depending on with whom you speak. Hauver first started exploring nudist lifestyle in the early 1980s.

“It was for the sunshine. It’s gone now. I don’t care. I’ll go sit in the shade all day just to be comfortable, but I have a very high rate of metabolism so I’m always warm. That helps.”

But for those with slower metabolisms, the colder weather can pose more of an issue when it comes to disrobing and connecting with nature. Nonetheless, Hauver and others were very clear that there are opportunities to enjoy a nudist lifestyle even during these colder months.

One option some nudists take is traveling to nudist resorts in the warmer southern states. Cyndi Saber works with her mother in the office of their family-owned and operated, clothing-optional Shangri La Ranch in New River, Arizona, just north of Phoenix. With many people traveling there from Canada and below, they are usually completely booked in the winter months.

“We take reservations in January for the following year,” said Saber.

The resort hosts a variety of activities including hiking, pickleball, tennis, water volleyball, swimming in the outdoor heated pool, DJs and dancing every Saturday, karaoke, potlucks and line dancing lessons. The variety of outdoor and indoor activities gives the resort some flexibility when the weather is too cold or too hot, even though the concern for dramatic weather fluctuation is minimal.

“We get pretty good weather year-round,” said Saber.

Even so, it can be difficult for all nudists to travel to better weather for the entire season.

“There are a lot of older nudists that do the winter migration,” explained Felicity Jones, co-founder of Young Naturists America (YNA). “A lot of people can’t do that because of their jobs.” For those who stick around, there are still plenty of opportunities to go nude, even if an outdoor swim is out of the question.

For instance, YNA, based in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, still hosts events during the season, even though weather puts a limit on what activities are involved.

“In New York, we are basically confined to indoor spaces,” said Jones. Past events include parties at bars, body painting parties, naked bowling and holiday parties, including those for Saint Patrick’s Day and Halloween. “People will drive hours and hours to attend our events,” said Jones.

Although YNA meet ups tend to happen year-round, the two Rochester-based groups, Naturist Rochester and Rochester Male Naturists (ROMANS) — a group for gay naturists — are actually most active during the winter months, when finding warm locations to disrobe is the most difficult.

Ron Cook, a member of ROMANS and a past president of the group, explained that their most active months are October through April when they meet up once a month for a meal and a meeting at someone’s home. Sometimes these meetings have themes ranging from the approaching holiday to neckties only. The group also hosts nude swims in collaboration with Naturist Rochester, sometimes at the Vassar Street location and sometimes at another Rochester athletic facility.

This high rate of events does not continue into the summer months, when people tend to scatter out to a variety of different nudist venues, although some trips to different parks are organized.

“We do very little during the summer. Why be indoors to go swimming when you can be outdoors and go swimming?” asked Hauver. “During the summer, we close the club down, come September, we open back up.”

Although getting naked inside may not come with the same feelings of liberation as being outside in the warm months, the naturists of the north still make the best of the colder months by finding groups, locations and events that are warm and welcoming where they can still connect with their nude selves, even if they con't connect with the nature outside.