The chill of a 40-degree morning did not deter friends Sherry Bryant and Mary Vanderkooy from putting on their swimsuits and jumping into the outdoor Jacuzzi at Sunflower RV Resort this week.

“It’s not cold at all,” said Bryant, 65, a snowbird who has driven her RV to Surprise, Ariz., for the past six winters. “I love it here.”

As reported by the Arizona Republic, Bryant and Vanderkooy, both from Colorado, joined thousands of seasonal visitors who came to the West Valley last fall.

Although snowbirds have become increasingly difficult to count, this year appears to be the strongest for winter visitors since the Great Recession ended. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to stay in metro Phoenix this winter for up to six months, including a rising number of Canadians.

The annual snowbird trek leaves a substantial mark economically and culturally on the West Valley. The seasonal residents, often retirees, buy homes, fill restaurants, shop and visit Arizona tourist sites.

Snowbirds are vital to the West Valley economy, said Lorraine Pino, director of the Glendale Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“They take in the local sights that local residents might forget to do,” Pino said. “This is their home away from home,” she said, noting many who have a home base in Arizona become “staycationers” during the winter.

Snowbirds typically are described as visitors who spend at least a month in the Valley.

In the West Valley, snowbirds make up close to a third of Sun City’s 38,500 residents, according to the Sun City Visitors Center. Real-estate agents say out-of-state Baby Boomers and Canadian snowbirds have been buying up homes and condominiums around the Valley that might have remained empty during the Great Recession.

Yet, traditional havens for winter stays — the mobile home and recreational vehicle — are thriving.

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