Forget snowbirds: 'Sweat birds' flee the heat of Texas and Arizona to spend summer in cooler northern climates

  • Some homeowners are fed up with the extreme temperatures in the South.

  • "Sweat birds" want to leave the heat behind by buying second homes in cooler parts of the country.

  • It allows them to partake in outdoor activities in the summer and provides a change of scenery.

Twenty years ago, work drove Cindy Woudenberg, a native Midwesterner, and her husband to the Phoenix area.

Woudenberg, 60, still hasn't gotten used to the state's blistering summers. Once a resident of the Great Lakes area, she missed going to the beach and watching the leaves change colors in the fall.

"I have never been happy with the heat," Woudenberg told Insider.

Last fall, she bought a cabin near Baldwin, Michigan, a city about 85 miles north of Grand Rapids, where she planned to spend the warmer months instead of hunkering down indoors in air conditioning and waiting for the Arizona heat to subside.

Woudenberg said splitting time between Arizona and Michigan allows her to enjoy the positives of both places.

"I am very outdoorsy — I love to garden, and in Arizona, you do not garden in the summer," she said. "I garden a lot in Arizona in the wintertime, so now I get the best of both worlds."

Woudenberg participates in the opposite of the popular "snowbird" trend, in which cold-averse people fly south for the winter. "Sweat birds" — or "fire birds," which Woudenberg prefers — ditch the heat and opt for a cooler experience in the summer by relocating north. It offers outdoorsy people more opportunities to do the activities they love throughout the year without worrying about, say, sweating through their favorite shirt.

A Midwesterner living in Arizona returns North to continue her life outdoors

Woudenberg still has family in Michigan. That was a big draw for her deciding to spend more time up North, but the climate also played a major role.

Woudenberg enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and boating, but the weather in Arizona denies her those pleasures during the summer.

A woman posing in front of yellow flowers
Woudenberg is originally from the Midwest and missed spending time there.Cindy Woudenberg

"If you're not out by 4 a.m. or 5 a.m., it's just too hot — and sometimes even then it's hot," she said.

Arizona has had a blazingly hot summer, with temperatures hitting at least 110 degrees for 31 days straight during June and July. Michigan's summer temperatures average highs in the 70s and let Woudenberg carry on with her favorite outdoor activities. Woudenberg said her life in Michigan mirrors her life in Arizona in terms of what she's normally doing — it's just during different times of the year.

"There really isn't that much difference as far as outdoor activities," she said. "It's the opposite seasons."

Hiking in Arizona is great when the weather is tame, Woudenberg said, and when it's warm enough, the National Forest trails in Michigan are beautiful. Woudenberg said that Arizona has an avid boating community, but the heat dictates when you can get out on the water.

"Boating in the summer is still miserable unless you're swimming," she said. "People do boat, but mostly they're boating in the spring, winter, fall. In Michigan, it's the opposite. In Michigan you're boating until everything freezes over."

Woudenberg told Insider that the prices of homes inland are not as expensive as lakeshore homes. Her three-bedroom cabin is about 30 minutes from Lake Michigan. The median home-sale price in Baldwin, Michigan, is $114,000, according to Redfin.

This was Woudenberg's first summer owning a second home in Michigan. She plans on spending about five months (June through October) up North, although the foliage in the fall may have her extend her time to November.

"The spring is spectacular down in Arizona for weather because it'll be 70 or 80 degrees and sunny," she said. "But the colors in Michigan are just amazing."

A Florida couple leaves their destination city for Idaho

Galia Pennekamp and Mike Gerrard spend about 75% of their time in Miami, and the rest in Idaho.

In what is normally the landing spot for snowbirds, Florida during the summer months can be unbearable for some because of the heat.

A man and woman taking a selfie on a hike.
Galia Pennekamp and Mike Gerrard leave Miami for a change of scenery in Idaho during the summer.Galia Pennekamp and Mike Gerrard

Galia and Mike have lived in South Florida for decades and bought a second home in Driggs, Idaho — about an hour away from Jackson, Wyoming — during winter 2022.

"Many of our friends have homes in North Carolina or the Keys. Those are two obvious places, but we wanted something a little different than that," Galia told Insider, noting that Idaho's Teton Valley area is a bucket-list location for some. "We thought it was really special."

A golf course with a mountainous landscape in the background.
Tributary's golf course.Tributary

Galia, 56, and Mike, 59, purchased a four-bedroom home for $2.7 million in a private residential community, Tributary, and now have a climate better suited for the outdoor activities in the summer that they just can't do in Miami year-round.

"We enjoy fly fishing, biking, hiking — we even tried downhill mountain biking this year for the first time," Galia said. "We both walk for pleasure and for exercise every day. Taking a walk in Idaho in June, July, or August is very different than in Miami. It's almost impossible to do that."

Northern California provides some relief from the Dallas heat for one sweat bird

Chuck Anderson is originally from Nebraska but has lived in Dallas since 1980. He naturally gravitates toward warmer climates, he said, but Dallas' summer weather has become a bit too much.

A man and woman posing at a table.
Chuck and Kim Anderson at the Martis Camp Community Fundraising Dinner in 2022.Chuck Anderson

Anderson, 62, searched for second homes in Colorado, Idaho, and Montana, but ended up in Truckee, California — which borders Nevada and is only 30 minutes from Reno.

He bought a five-bedroom house within the luxury ski and golf community Martis Camp, about 16 miles from Lake Tahoe. Anderson declined to share the amount he paid for his home but said prices in the community ranged from about $4 million to $20 million during his search. The lakeside community offers amenities including a tennis pavilion, community hiking trails, and a beach shack that Anderson and his wife, Kim, take full advantage of.

"My wife and I are fairly active," Anderson told Insider. "We hike, swim, and play golf and a bunch of pickleball, and they have all those here so we can use them all."

Anderson bought in Truckee in 2020, and spends about four to eight weeks there during the summer, he said. He compared the temperatures of Dallas and Truckee in the same week and said Dallas was predicted to be between 102 degrees and 108 degrees, while Truckee had highs in the 70s and 80s.

A cabin library in the woods.
Martis Camp Realty's library.Martis Camp Realty

Anderson still loves Dallas but enjoys his break from the heat.

"This is just a place to go to beat the heat and get away from it," he said. "You just can't beat it up here."

Correction: August 30, 2023 — An earlier version of this story misstated Mike Gerrard's last name. It is Gerrard, not Pennekamp.

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