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Gus Carlson is a U.S.-based columnist for The Globe and Mail.

It seems counterintuitive when people express their affection for a place by talking as much about what it isn’t as about what it is.

So don’t be taken aback when people who choose to spend this time of year in Palm Springs, Calif. – including the hundreds of thousands of annual tourists, homeowners and renters from Canada – tell you that sometimes it’s what this scenic desert oasis isn’t that makes it so special.

Palm Springs isn’t Florida or Arizona, two of the most popular Sun Belt destinations for Canadian snowbirds investing in property and vacationers and retirees seeking a respite from the northern winter. Florida, in particular, is a hotbed of Canadian activity – Canadians are by far the largest foreign buyers of residential property in the state and among the largest blocs of tourists.

The benefits of being the un-Florida and un-Arizona destinations are plentiful. The Palm Springs area – comprised of nine towns in the Coachella Valley, including Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells, La Quinta and Desert Hot Springs – is quiet and uncongested, even in high winter season. You can get reservations at good restaurants and there are no lines at grocery stores. If you are a golfer, there are so many courses it is easy to get a tee time that suits you.

Carlson: Snowbirds beware: Canadians who own homes in Florida will find it a lot costlier

House prices in the area are cheaper than other popular snowbird destinations, though not cheap, the cultural and arts scene is active, and as quaint as it may sound, being chill is a social strength here rather than a stigma. Even hockey fans can get their fix – the Seattle Kraken’s farm team, the Firebirds, play in a brand-new arena in Thousand Palms.

And there’s the unique vibe. In an increasingly noisy, self-absorbed culture in which success is often measured by the accumulation of things and the wow factor of boastful Instagram posts, Palm Springs has become something of an anachronism – a small step back in time where civility, modesty and common courtesy are highly valued and outdoor activities such as golf, hiking and cycling, not social climbing or partisan political bickering, are the preferred activities.

The low-key, old-school tenor of Palm Springs is deeply embedded in its DNA. This was the hideaway for movie stars to escape the glare of celebrity in the glory days of Hollywood. You can almost feel the ghosts of Bob Hope, Dean Martin, Jane Wyman and William Powell toasting you as you settle into a margarita at a local cantina.

“Palm Springs is an oasis from many things: Rain, humidity, traffic congestion, politics and negativity,” said Jim Whitney, a retired creative director from Toronto who has rented a winter house in La Quinta for the past three years.

Mr. Whitney and his wife, Karen, had vacationed in Florida and had three-week rentals in Arizona for four years. When friends suggested they consider wintering in Palm Springs, they bit.

“The weather in the valley is as dry as Arizona and has none of the Florida humidity and storm fronts,” he said. “West Palm Beach, Fla., averages over 62 inches of rain per year, while Palm Springs averages only five inches. Other than the occasional high-wind storm, it’s Groundhog Day for sunshine every day.”

Even more remarkable, he said, the discussion of politics isn’t just frowned upon, it’s actively discouraged: “In the three years we’ve been here, I may have heard the words Trump and Biden mentioned only a few times.”

Mike Irwin, a senior wealth adviser at Mission Wealth Advisors in Calgary, is one of many Canadians who bought property in the valley right after the financial crisis of 2007-09, when the Canadian dollar was strong, local housing prices were low and the strength of Canada’s banks was a credential for Canadians seeking to buy foreign properties. At one point in the years after the crisis, Canadians made up 25 per cent of home buyers in the valley.

“If you want big-city attractions Phoenix is great,” said Mr. Irwin, who owns a townhouse in Palm Desert, where he spends about 10 weeks a year. “But we wanted a place to go to unwind, with no stress, no pressure. The desert is different that way.”

Mr. Irwin is one of many Canadians benefiting from a raft of direct flights from several Canadian cities to Palm Springs. With the flight from Calgary only 2½ hours, long-weekend trips with his family and friends are easy.

So prevalent are Canadians in Palm Springs – and so significant is their impact on the local economy – a columnist for The Sacramento Bee newspaper suggested in jest a few years ago that California should cede the valley to Canada.

Like any paradise, of course, Palm Springs has its shortcomings. Among them is its proximity to the San Andreas Fault, meaning earthquakes and tremors are not uncommon, and home insurance rates reflect that risk.

There are even some drawbacks specific to Canadians. Local residents sometimes complain that Canadians are bad tippers and cause traffic snarls because they obey speed limits. And there are those pesky Canadian quarters that find their way into the change drawers of local merchants.

As if Canadians haven’t heard that before. Seems some lighthearted ribbing is a small price to pay for a slice of this unique corner of the world.

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