Snowmass Balloon Festival continues to soar | AspenTimes.com

Snowmass Balloon Festival continues to soar

Erica Robbie | The Aspen Times
The 41st annual Snowmass Balloon Festival colored the skies on Saturday morning at one of the highest-altitude balloon events in the country. Today the SnowMASS Ascension and Balloon Dance will commence.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

IF YOU GO...

What: Snowmass Balloon Festival

When: Today, 6:30 to 10 a.m.

Where: Snowmass softball field

Admission: Free and open to the public

Note: Balloon events are weather dependent and subject to change. In case of inclement weather, call the Balloon Festival Information and Weather Hotline at (970) 922-2233.

For more information, visit www.gosnowmass.com.

About 100 lucky folks in Snowmass might have been the highest people in Colorado on Saturday morning as the 41st annual balloon festival took flight.

On a perfect fall day, the air was cool and crisp, the sun was shining and a sea of bright colors painted the clear, blue skies.

The three-day Snowmass Balloon Festival is one of the highest-altitude hot-air balloon festivals in the U.S., drawing balloon pilots and enthusiasts from all over.

Thirty-four hot-air balloons soared over Snowmass on Saturday alone, said Snowmass Tourism marketing coordinator Liz Winn, noting that one balloon that was scheduled did not take flight.

Snowmass Balloon Festival patron Stephen Blucher, who served as the event announcer during its earlier days and later as a pilot, said the art and science of piloting a balloon is dependent upon one’s understanding of wind behavior.

“It’s all about the winds,” said Blucher, noting that wind direction and speed change at different altitudes.

Blucher, who boasts nearly 50 years of piloting experience, flew his balloon, named Morning Glory Too, at the festival this weekend.

The picture-perfect event is a longstanding tradition in Snowmass and attracts thousands of spectators and visitors to the area annually.

“It’s an outstanding event,” said Snowmass Tourism groups and events manager Dave Elkan, who’s played a part in putting on the show for about 10 years. “Everyone involved really takes a great ownership of it.”

The event’s volunteers also are crucial to its success, Elkan said, as the activity requires a great deal of labor.

Colorado Springs resident and Snowmass Balloon Festival volunteer Beverly Voelker said her passion for being in the air and involved with balloons in any capacity is what prompts her to travel to festivals to help at no cost.

“It’s something that you have to really care about,” said Voelker, who also works a full-time job in IT.

When asked what he enjoys most about flying hot-air balloons, Blucher recited a quote by Leonardo da Vinci:

“For once you have tasted flight you will walk the Earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.”

Blucher said he relates to this sense of freedom and joy that’s felt while airborne.

“For every hour you’re in the air,” Blucher said, “God gives you an extra hour on Earth.”

erobbie@aspentimes.com


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