Snowmass Balloon Festival returns for 45th year next week in new socially-distanced fashion |

Snowmass Balloon Festival returns for 45th year next week in new socially-distanced fashion

A bird and hot air balloons soar through the sky on the first day of the 44th Annual Snowmass Balloon Festival in Snowmass on Friday, Sept. 6.
Kelsey Brunner / The Aspen Times

The 45th Snowmass Balloon Festival returns to Town Park next week but with a socially-distanced twist, town officials announced Wednesday.

Instead of the typical festival on the softball field, locals and visitors are invited to watch the three-day display of nearly 30 balloons from afar, either drive-in style by reserving a parking space in the Town Park area, or by hitting one of the town’s numerous hiking and biking trails, a town news release says.

Balloons will launch every morning Sept. 11-13 and be visible from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m.

“Shifting our efforts again, we have focused on a new kind of balloon festival that promises all of the exciting sights and sounds of past festivals,” said Rose Abello, tourism director with Snowmass Tourism, in a prepared statement. “We are encouraging folks to take a hike or a bike ride to experience the festival this year, plus we are offering a ‘drive-in’ option as well.”

To participate drive-in style, locals and guests are required to pre-register. There will be 250 spaces available each day in the Town Park parking lot area and on sections of Brush Creek Road, the town news release says.

Passengers are required to remain in their vehicles within their designated event parking areas. The release says sitting in a truck bed is allowed, but standing or sitting in chairs next to your vehicle is prohibited.

Another twist to this year’s event is that KSPN radio will be on-site for balloon festival announcements. The audio will be transmitted via FM radio to vehicles in the designated parking areas, and station information will be provided at check-in.

For those looking to experience the festival from the trails, Snowmass Tourism has a list of “how to balloon festival” tips on its website, with mountain biking trail suggestions including the 9.5-mile West Sky Mountain Park Loop and hiking trail ideas like the North Rim Trail. Masks, social distancing and trail etiquette are required, tourism officials said.

Free parking for the event is available at the Brush Creek Park and Ride, Rodeo Lot, Tom Blake Trailhead, Little Red Schoolhouse, Snowmass Mall and Base Village parking garage, however, festival goers are not allowed to park their cars there to watch the festival, officials said.

There will also be a balloon “night glow” on Sept. 11 on the Snowmass Golf Course, 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Balloons will not leave the ground but will glow to music in real time on KSPN. Onlookers will be able to see the glow by driving around the golf course in their vehicles, with multiple loops encouraged, the release says. No registration is required. The glow can also be observed from area trails, though headlamps and reflectors are recommended.

As part of this year’s socially-distanced festival weekend, Snowmass restaurants will be offering specials and handing out balloon fest pins; yoga will be offered Saturday and Sunday mornings at the Base Village rink; an artisan market will be in Base Village Friday evening; “Social Saturday” activities on the Snowmass Mall; and the town’s second “ice cream anti-social” on Labor Day.

For more information on this year’s festival go to