Mother Nature grounds balloons during festival |

Mother Nature grounds balloons during festival

Joel Stonington
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times
AP | The Aspen Times

Winter was in the air this weekend as snow fell in the mountains, and low temperatures set records throughout Colorado and Utah. For the Snowmass Balloon Festival, it meant that many of the balloons never got off the ground, and few spectators showed up to watch. “Needless to say, Mother Nature was not kind to us this year, but it all balances out in the end,” said Bruce Wood, balloon meister of the festival and owner of Above It All Balloon Co. “Friday and Saturday were kind of a wash.”Friday’s long-distance race, the Rat Race, was canceled, as was Saturday’s “Dawn Quixote” event, in which 30 balloons attempt to pop large, tethered balloons with ski poles. One balloon got off the ground Saturday evening but it had a tough time staying on course. “It let the spectators see how Mother Nature is in charge,” Wood said, so the baskets on the ground turned on their burners for the crowd. “We used about 200 gallons of fuel in 10 minutes, for about a dozen balloons. Just the baskets and burners lighting up the skies. A few million [British thermal units] of heat into the air to keep people warm. We had the barbecue going on and the live music. So those that turned out and braved the cold were treated to what we could do.”It’s not so much cold temperatures that keep balloons from having a good flight. Rather, cold air helps because balloons use less fuel to float. The wind is the big problem, and it usually blows when there is rain. When it finally cleared on Sunday, more balloons got off the ground, despite continuing problems with the wind.”We like stable, high pressure, sunny skies and all that,” Wood said. “We had some of that [Sunday] morning, though the winds were a bit strong. We had rather short flights, but we at least had stability and sunny skies.”Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is

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