Some Canadian snowbirds choosing to roost up north this winter

·2 min read
Some Canadian snowbirds choosing to roost up north this winter

While some snowbirds are disregarding government recommendations around COVID-19 travel and flying south for the winter, many more have decided to roost in place and brave the cold Canadian weather.

Bob Slack, former president and current board member of the Canadian Snowbird Association, says 70 per cent of the just over 100,000 snowbirds the association represents are staying at home this year.

"It's a different winter altogether for snowbird travel," he said.

Slack and his wife, Lois, both in their 70s, have spent the past 22 winters in Florida. This year, they're staying at their winterized cottage near Brockville, Ont.

"We feel very fortunate that the winter hasn't been too harsh yet," he said. "We've enjoyed it so far."

WATCH: Why Bob Slack and his wife stayed in Canada for the winter

The Slacks decided to stay because of the pandemic and the restrictions at the Canada-U.S. land border, which is currently closed to non-essential travel.

Their main concern was overcrowded hospitals in Florida, as they feared accessing health care there might be difficult if they were in an accident or something else happened.

"Then what if we can't get back home? And all these things came into play when we made our decision to stay at home," Slack said.

Making the most of winter

Elizabeth Flanagan, 76, has been going to Florida for most of her life — and had been spending the entire winter there since retiring in 2012.

But pretty quickly after the pandemic hit, she decided to stay in Ottawa this winter. She returned to Canada last March, earlier than expected, and hasn't left since.

"I came back and pretty well realized that life was going to be different for a period of time," she said.

She's now determined to make the most of winter, having set a pandemic goal of walking 10,000 steps a day.

Submitted by Rosemary Young
Submitted by Rosemary Young

'I'm thriving here'

"I am feeling so inspired and proud of her," said Rosemary Young, Flanagan's daughter. "She's actually renewed my excitement about the winter."

The two of them walk together almost every day at noon. Sometimes, on the weekend, Flanagan's granddaughter joins them.

"So it's the three generations walking together, which is like, wow, what could be more wonderful than that? And that's happened because I'm here," Flanagan said.

Flanagan said the reason she spent so many winters in Florida was because she'd convinced herself she wouldn't be able to maintain a healthy lifestyle in Ottawa's winter — but that's all changed.

"Getting up and out and actually breathing that air and moving feels so good. I feel invigorated, and I'm learning not to fear it, but to welcome it," she said.

"I'm actually feeling like I'm thriving here."