Burning questions about hot air balloons
July 11, 2002
A few questions regarding an oft-overlooked commercial venture in our valley:
1. Who/what agency regulates hot air balloons?
2. Is it necessary to the financial success of hot air balloon companies that they must seemingly scrape residential rooftops prior to 7 a.m. on a daily basis – or just occasionally?
3. Must said rooftops be in the Snowmass Creek drainage, or will any downvalley rooftop be satisfactory?
4. Are hot air balloon companies required to have enough liability insurance to indemnify all landowners whose land they may choose – or not choose, as the case may be – to set down upon? (Was it the summer of 1993 that was so tragic? And do current customers know the local history and the risk of ballooning in our high-altitude mountains?)
5. Is it OK to trespass on absolutely anyone’s land, so long as you are brought in by hot air balloons?
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6. Does the general population know that cattle, sheep, horses and wildlife are kept in fields so that low-flying hot air balloon pilots have something to show their fares … no matter if it frightens said animals?
7. Will the nesting eagles, infant elk and deer and the families of bear mind if humans drop in on them and hike through their homes just to get back to the chase vehicles after missing the intended landing zone?
8. Will the next local air show be slurry drops or helicopters putting out the wildfires caused by a hot air balloon “landing” in the middle of a tinder-dry hillside of scrub oak, sage brush and cedar in a drought year … as happened this morning just south of the top of Watson Divide?