Going Up in a Hot Air Balloon in Snowmass

Going Up in a Hot Air Balloon in Snowmass and seeing the peaks and valleys of the landscape confirmed that there is absolutely no place like home.

As the tips of the leaves turn from a deep and luscious green to a bright yellow that in the sun’s light set the trees aflame in golds and reds, we throw ourselves into fall in Colorado with a fervor, knowing that all too soon there will be no more dirt single tracks to play on, that bodies will no longer be exposed to the warm Colorado sun but instead wrapped in layers, and that getting ready to play will entail more planning and equipment gathering.

This is the time where every second is lived outdoors as much as possible and real life tends to get cast aside – work can wait. Living up here in the mountains we have no choice, the mountains beckon.

Hot Air Ballooning in Snowmass

So…what have we been doing? Everything, including launching up in a hot air balloon at the Snowmass 41st Balloon Festival.

With Baddy’s cousin, Colleen Johnson, as the Official Balloonmeister this year we finally coerced at least one of our boys to arise at 5am and head out into the cool and dark autumnal morning for a new experience in sky travel.

Gathering together in The Snowmass Golf Course Clubhouse we drank coffee and had a breakfast of fruit and muffins as Colleen gave the morning report speaking in balloon code about weather conditions and mishaps that occurred in the race the day before…including who got disqualified for rule disruptors such as; taking off before sunrise or floating a bit too high (balloonists are not allowed to go over 17,999 so as not to get in the flight path of planes). “If you find yourself heading towards Independence Pass….land,” she advised.

We enjoyed being witness to the rogue and the wiry with mischievous questions being asked like, “Are we allowed to splash and dash?” and playful responses like, “It’s better to ask for forgiveness rather than permission.”

Ballooning and Champagne

What was clear to see is that these balloonists like the sense of the unknown that the wind brings, and are proud of the history that brought forth the culture of ballooning with champagne blessings at the end.[su_box title=”Balloons and Bubbly”] The tradition dates back to the first balloon flight in France.  Early balloons were attacked by the landowners with stones, clubs, and pitchforks as they landed, since the landowners believed the balloons to be “fire-breathing monsters.”  These early French aeronauts found that they could distract the landowners by offering them a glass of champagne.  While it is unlikely that today’s landowners think of balloons as “fire-breathing monsters,” pilots still offer a bottle of champagne to thank them for the use of their land.  A champagne toast also takes place after each balloon flight, along with the recitation of the Balloonists’ Prayer.  [/su_box]

The Balloonist Prayer

The winds have welcome you with softness
The sun has blessed you with it’s warm rays
You have flown so high and so well
That God has joined you in laughter
And set you gently back again
Into the loving arms of Mother Earth

It was a pretty wonderful and peaceful feeling floating up in the air in a tiny basket with my Tuck Tuck and the pilot Rich Lawhorn, and nothing more than a large “Humpty Dumpty” balloon, a little bit of wind, and about 30 gallons of fuel to keep us afloat. And what was absolutely as clear as this cloudless, windless day, was that indeed there is absolutely no place like home, and no better place to see the peaks and valleys of our home than from a tiny basket up high in a balloon.

[su_box title=”The First Hot Air Balloon Flight”]On the 19th September 1783 Pilatre De Rozier, a scientist, launched the first hot air balloon called ‘Aerostat Reveillon’. The passengers were a sheep, a duck and a rooster and the balloon stayed in the air for a grand total of 15 minutes before crashing back to the ground. The first manned attempt came about 2 months later on 21st November, with a balloon made by 2 French brothers, Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier. The balloon was launched from the centre of Paris and flew for a period of 20 minutes. The birth of hot air ballooning!!! Just 2 years later in 1785 a French balloonist, Jean Pierre Blanchard, and his American co pilot, John Jefferies, became the first to fly across the English Channel. In these early days of ballooning, the English Channel was considered the first step to long distance ballooning so this was a large benchmark in ballooning history. Unfortunately, this same year Pilatre de Rozier (the world’s first balloonist) was killed in his attempt at crossing the channel. His balloon exploded half an hour after takeoff due to the experimental design of using a hydrogen balloon and hot air balloon tied together.[/su_box]

The weekend of September 8th-10th celebrates community, with the return of the 42nd Annual Snowmass Balloon Festival all weekend long, in addition to the debut of a brand-new Snowmass event, Septemberfest, on Saturday, September 9th.

Snowmass Balloon Festival

The 42nd Annual Snowmass Balloon Festival is one of the highest-altitude hot air balloon events in the country. Over the course of three days, 30+ pilots compete in challenges and races, launching from Snowmass Town Park each morning.

  • Friday, September 8th – Pilots compete in the Carter Memorial Colorado Rat Race. Guests can watch from the ground as 30+ balloons rise into the sky, with 15 of the most seasoned pilots racing to see who can fly the farthest down valley in three hours. The remaining balloons fly over Snowmass and the Brush Creek Valley beginning at 6:50 a.m. For the best views, head to Snowmass Town Park starting at 6:30 a.m.
  • Saturday, September 9th – The SnowMASS Ascension & X-Marks the Spot – Target Competition kicks off at 7:00 a.m. Pilots maneuver their balloon as close as they can to two different targets above the Snowmass Golf Course. Following the competition, balloons float high above Snowmass. For the best views, head to Snowmass Town Park at 7:00 a.m. Beginning at 7:30 a.m. at Snowmass Town Park, the Kids’ Elevation Station features activities for kids, including a free bouncy house, face painting, and more.
  • Sunday, September 10thThe Snowmass Ascension and Balloon Dance – Team Competition occurs from7:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Pilots compete in pairs to see who can hold one end of flagging tape the longest. After the competition, balloons float high in the sky around Snowmass. For the best views, head to Snowmass Town Park at 7:00 a.m. Beginning at 7:30 a.m. at Snowmass Town Park, the Kids’ Elevation Station returns.

All Snowmass Balloon Festival events are free and open to all ages. All daytime events take place at Snowmass Town Park, with free parking in the Town Park Station lot. 


Debuting on Saturday, September 9th, Septemberfest brings together the Roaring Fork Valley community in celebration of all things Snowmass from 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Located in Snowmass Base Village, the event features wine & sake tastings; food tastings from local restaurants including Base Camp Bar & Grill, Slice, Sake, The Artisan, Mountain Bayou, and Big Hoss; music by DJ Ginger starting at 5:00 p.m.; kids’ activities including a dessert table, cotton candy stand, bounce house, face painters, and a petting zoo; Snowmass Ice Age Discovery Center learning station; local vendors & artisans including a Viceroy Spa massage station, pottery from Small Flower, photography from Be the Xperience, apparel from EnJay Boutique, local jewelers, tasty finds from Woody Creek Distillers, Roaring Fork Spice Company; and more.


The event features a presentation and live demonstration of two bionic exoskeleton suits by Bridging Bionics at 6pm that help our locals who are paralyzed walk, as well as a silent auction and raffle to support the Bridging Bionics Foundation. Bridging Bionics is a public charitable organization, whose mission is to bridge mobility and capability through the use of bionic technology.

Septemberfest is free and open to all ages, with cash donations accepted in support of the Bridging Bionics Foundation.

LEFT TO RIGHT: Michele Peterson, Brandon Martinez,
Soren Lindholm (Bridging Bionics Client) standing in the brand new Indego exoskeleton,
Debbie Weidemann, Maria Grufstedt and Tami Cassetty.


Snowmass Balloon Festival Balloon Glow + ‘90s Night Glow Show

In conjunction with the 42nd Annual Snowmass Balloon Festival and Septemberfest, the 2017 Balloon Glow + Glow Show brings a special night of celebration and fun to Snowmass with a 90’s themed evening on Saturday, September 9th on the Base Village Events Lawn. Live performers and a DJ kick off the evening at 7:15 p.m., followed by a 90s themed concert by the band Nevermind the 90s at 8:00 p.m. Balloons light up across Base Village and Fanny Hill throughout the festivities. 90s attire is encouraged.

For additional information please visit https://www.gosnowmass.com/events

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