The 43rd annual Snowmass Balloon Festival went off without a hitch last weekend coinciding with sunny blue skies throughout the Roaring Fork Valley. If you haven’t experienced this festival it’s worth marking September 2019 on your calendar.
Though you might imagine yourself at an event like this silently observing balloons in the distance, that’s far from reality at the Snowmass Balloon Fest.
On the contrary, spectators are invited to join the pilots and chase crews early in the morning in a large field where 30 enormous hot air balloons, many taller than a house, inflate all around them.
Spectators are close enough to touch the balloons, talk to the pilots and jump from the loud blasts of propane gas shooting from fuel tanks to light into 6-8 foot flames that inflate the balloons with hot air.
With balloons taking off all around, spectators can follow with their eyes or on foot as pilots play games like “X” Marks the Spot, where the aim is to drop a weighted flag from the balloon basket onto one of two large “X’s” positioned on the Snowmass Golf Course.
Pilots can move their balloons upward or downward using their burner system, but to move side to side must find different wind layers at different altitudes moving the direction they want to go.
Less precise, this technique keeps pilots on their toes and spectators guessing and needless to say, things don’t always go as planned.
Eventually, the balloons begin landing anywhere and everywhere: on streets, in the yards of nearby homes, on mountain bike trails and the sides of hills all around.
Spectators are often recruited to help hold basket’s down or deflate balloons. All in all, it is a communal and interactive experience 43 years strong in Snowmass!