Swiss canton bans nude hiking

APPENZELL, Switzerland Mon Apr 27, 2009 2:18pm EDT

A general view of the Swiss Alpine countryside in a file photo. REUTERS/Michael Buholzer

A general view of the Swiss Alpine countryside in a file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Michael Buholzer

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APPENZELL, Switzerland (Reuters) - Hikers will no longer be able to stroll naked through the idylic Alpine countryside of Appenzell Innerrhoden after the conservative Swiss canton banned nude walking there.

Appenzell Innerrhoden has become hugely popular for naked ramblers due to its tranquil, picture-perfect meadows and valleys. But the hordes offended Appenzellers' sensitivities and they voted Sunday to order them to cover up.

"It's ridiculous that Appenzell is getting an international reputation for such a despicable habit," said Peter Schmid, who turned up bearing the canton's traditional long sword to vote against nude hiking at the annual open-air Landsgemeinde.

The Landsgemeide is a popular assembly that takes place in Appenzell town on the last Sunday of April. Participants vote by raising hands to decide on local issues, a privilege reserved to men only until women were admitted in 1990.

Between 3,000 and 4,000 voters, many wearing traditional robes, turned up at this year's Landsgemeinde.

The canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden started earlier this year to take steps to rein in what the local justice and police department called "immoral habits."

In February, the cantonal council began levying naked hikers on-the-spot fines. But this seemed to backfire, raising Appenzell's international profile as a haven for naked hikers.

DANGEROUS HABIT

Naked hiking has become popular in countries like France and Germany, with supporters praising the liberating feeling of being able to roam freed from clothes in nature.

"There are naked hikers in France and Germany too," Edith Zweifel of the Swiss tourism board told Reuters. "But Switzerland is a lot more conservative and very traditional."

Detractors say the practice, against which the Appenzell canton will now impose a 200 Swiss franc fine, presents risks.

Swiss trekking clothing and equipment manufacturer Mammut deems the practice unsafe and irresponsible.

Mammut spokeswoman Katharina Habermann said exposing certain delicate areas of the body to the sun's UV-rays was dangerous.

Supporters say the rewards for those who dare to bare are worth the effort.

"Those who have already experienced walking nude through the damp mist, lying in the sun, swimming in the water and feeling the wind on your naked skin, know how liberating it is to move around with no clothes on," Alice Haller, president of the Swiss Naturists Organization, wrote in a public letter.

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