Snowmass 40th Annual Balloon Festival takes flight
Snowmass kicked off its 40th annual Balloon Festival on Friday, though high winds prevented the balloons from being able to fly.
Saturday morning was the first time the balloons took flight, and also was one of the largest turnouts that the festival’s ever seen, Snowmass Tourism Public Relations Manager Patsy Popejoy said.
Popejoy said more than 2,000 people attended the festival Saturday, adding that “it was a perfect day.”
The Snowmass Balloon Festival is one of the highest-altitude balloon events in the country and draws balloons from all over the country, though “mostly western states,” such as Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.
The balloons are made of more than 90,000 cubic feet of ripstop nylon, balloon pilot Myia Danley said.
“That’s 90,000 basketballs,” Danley said.
Inflating a hot air balloon requires at least three or four people, Popejoy said, though there are usually more crew members and volunteers to help expedite the process at the Snowmass Balloon Festival.
Popejoy said the balloons at the festival soar at least as high as 7,000 feet. Danley and her husband Chuck, who’s also certified to fly balloons, fly as high as 14,000 feet. At that level, Danley said pilots must have oxygen for themselves and passengers.
Danley said she rode in a hot air balloon for the first time in 2002, got her first hot air balloon in 2010 and received her flying certification in 2011.
“I got into it so I could teach kids how to fly balloons,” Danley said.
Danley said the scariest part about flying balloons is watching out for power lines.
“You see the power poles, and you’re asking yourself, ‘Where’s the line, where’s the line?’ and then all of the sudden, it’s just right there.”
Flights last anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, Danley said.
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Mountain Rescue Aspen is expanding its education efforts to try to keep people safe in the backcountry during winters and summers. It will host a workshop on Dec. 8 titled, “How to Plan a Backcountry Tour.”