Where Have All the Snowbirds Gone?

Photo of happy senior couple driving in a convertible. They are snowbirds.

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By BILL LEVINE

(SENIOR WIRE) In our home turf of suburban Boston, my wife and I are about the only snowbirds we know. Only she and I are willing to brave the interminable early-bird special lines to stake out a claim to Florida sunshine.

We thought that when we first wintered here in Broward County two years ago, we would be followed by our cold-hating peers, yet we literally know just one couple who has joined us down here.

But in conversations with my friends and acquaintances, my seasonal migration to Florida as a snowbird retiree seemingly elicits praise over my decision: “Wow, good move. Who really wants to stay up here and risk having your finger amputated by a snowblower’s auger,” or “Congratulations on buying a condo in Florida. Send me a box of those Indian River oranges, so I can get a whiff of Florida while I try to block out the smell of wet mittens.”

Of course, there is always these possible real sentiments underlying this supposed snowbird envy: “Truly, you’ll never catch us going to the ‘incontinent sub-continent’ to have gators or iguanas as pool pals,” or “ I’d rather go ice fishing in Minnesota.”

My first speculative reason why my sphere of known peers are not snowbirds is there has not been a social media viral “Florida or Bust” moment to stampede a bunch of Toyota Highlanders with ASK MY GRANDSON stickers down RTE 95.

Maybe though, my network base of potential snowbirds just like being hardy New Englanders. They love the exhilaration of wielding that extra-long roof rake to create a mini-avalanche in their shrubbery beds. My non-snowbird cohorts have evocative, youthful memories of playing pond hockey, even though global warming has alchemized pond ice to pond slush.

In addition, my network of local retirees can enjoy the winter more these days, rather than just stoically battle Jack Frost to a draw. Northern climes offer an expanded menu of established outdoor fun such as alpine skiing, x-cross skiing, snowboarding, fun, or mean snowball fighting, as well as death-wish activities such as bobsledding, heli-skiing, and family ski lessons.

Besides the usual winter sports, there are new winter sports that make staying through winter more attractive.

Biathlon

The biathlon is of course well-known as an Olympic sport, but it may be too much for the weekend athlete to stop skiing after 5 miles or so and calm down enough to shoot a rifle at a small target. The modified version of the biathlon is catching on as the lesser requirement of skiing and stopping to shoot the breeze.

Ice Boating

Just put runners on your 15-foot motorboat, and you have an ice boat, ready to glide over frozen lakes. Since the Titanic, there has to be some worrying when combining boats and ice.

Skijoring

In this flexible new sport, a skier is pulled by a vehicle ranging from a dog and horse to a Dodge Ram and possibly a plain ram. Of course, handicaps are applied so that in the Iditarod 500 the golden retriever is given a 450-mile head start on the Dodge Ram.

All this said, my bet on the biggest reasons for no snowbirds in my social network that my cohorts are comfortable staying put in winter. Leaving behind your kids, your friends, your home, your healthcare network, volunteering positions, and the utility of AWD in your SUV is a lot to give up even for 90 or so days at the beach.

Finally, there is the bifurcated life factor. Potential snowbirds just don’t want to be haunted by two different recycling protocols.

I sense this as why snowbird-hood is shot down by my peers, because I do recognize these losses as trade-offs for being outside without my CVS hand warmers, arctic parka and Chapstick. Yet, I personally am not dissuaded from being a snowbird by these tradeoffs, possibly because of the Endless Summer factor.

“Endless Summer” was a hit surfing documentary released in 1966. The movie was actually not that good, but I was intrigued by the idea of the endless summer, which was the surfer dude’s strategy of heading south when surfing meant freezing 10 in their California beach haunts with winter-cold ocean currents. Thus, they found summer surfing all year round.

I have extrapolated from this my own double summer, one in Florida and one in Massachusetts; it’s good enough for me and, who knows, I may someday ride a wave.  ISI

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