Above It All Balloon Co.
Editor’s note: Business as Usual is a series highlighting local businesses in Snowmass Village.
Snowmass Sun: How did your business start?
Pam Wood: Bruce Wood and I met in Aspen back in 1990; he was crewing for the local balloon company and was working on getting his license to fly balloons. We began dating, and he bought his first balloon from a pilot in Carbondale, Steve Close — we are still good friends. He began to learn how to fly the balloon; all of the local balloon pilots took turns giving him lessons. It was a wonderful way to learn from so many different perspectives. He ended up getting a promotion, which included a move to Houston. By this time, we were in love, so I left this beautiful place that I called home and followed him to hot Houston. We spent four years there; he continued to fly his balloon and learning the different aspects of flying, including windy landings, which is common in Houston. Whenever we would come visit the valley, we would spend time with our friend Bill Hodgden. He was flying for all of the balloon companies in the valley even though he owned his own company, Above It All Balloon Co. He was not much of a marketing man, but he loved flying balloons. We would go fly with him and then have breakfast and talk about the perfect hot-air-balloon company. We planned and discussed the things we would want to do and how we could go about it. Fortunately, Bruce’s job transferred him to Denver, so we were closer. We continued to visit Bill and develop our business plan. Finally in 1996, we transferred back to Aspen and incorporated Above It All Balloon Co. with Bill Hodgden. It was a dream come true. We thought the work was over, but it had only begun.
Snowmass Sun: What services do you sell?
Pam Wood: We provide hot-air-balloon rides in the Snowmass (and) Aspen valley. We launch out of Snowmass Village at sunrise — yeah, it’s early but worth it. We drift down the valley as the sun peeks over the mountains. It is a wonderful way to start your day! We fly for about an hour and provide a champagne brunch shortly after landing. It is a spectacular way to see our valley in all her glory. We know it’s tough living in this valley, and we all rarely experience these touristy things until we have family or friends in town. Let me tell you: Treat yourself to this trip. Remind yourself why you work so hard to live here. You will be grateful, and you’ll look at this valley in a whole new way. It makes you feel grand, but it also makes you feel like a speck in the whole scheme of things. It’ll change your perspective once you’ve stepped into our office.
Snowmass Sun: What makes your business unique?
Pam Wood: When you can make a living doing something you love, you will never work a day in your life. Well, I can say that is not completely true. We love what we do, and it is a lot of fun watching people experience flight in a hot-air balloon for the first time, but there is a lot of work involved. We can say we have brought people out of the grasp of Mother Earth, and the Earth has rotated without them, and then we bring them back to Earth with a new perspective! I think that is pretty dang unique, don’t you? We are the only hot-air-balloon business in the Aspen (and) Snowmass valley, and we have the best pilots in the nation! Our crew enjoy working with the balloons, and some plan to get their hot-air-balloon pilot license, too! We love sharing this amazing adventure with all of our passengers, and we look forward to seeing them again. A hot-air-balloon flight is on many people’s bucket lists, and checking it off while in Aspen is the best way to do it.
Snowmass Sun: Who’s your primary clientele?
Pam Wood: Most of our passengers are tourists, but I am proud to say we take out a lot of locals, too! We work hard to make things happen for everyone! We had a proposal in the balloon last weekend. It is really special to be a part of someone’s life like that! We also take a lot of elderly people since it is a bucket-list item, and this is a perfect area since bumpy landings are pretty rare for us. Our pilots only have the ability to heat the balloon or let the heat out; up and down is their control. There is no steering wheel, but they do have the winds at different altitudes, so they maneuver the balloons into the winds that give them the direction they desire. They are so skilled; it is amazing to watch them work and merge with Mother Nature!
Snowmass Sun: What is the best thing about running a business in Snowmass?
Pam Wood: We love this valley, and the fact that the town uses so many balloon pictures in a lot of the advertising is pretty awesome! Balloons really brighten up the valley, although you have to get up early to appreciate it. The town of Snowmass Village allows us to launch from the Snowmass Recreation Center parking lot, and we are grateful to work with them. They also send media and journalists to us, which promotes the town and ballooning over this spectacular valley. How else can you see all that there is to enjoy and appreciate here but by getting above it all? Come join us, and maybe you can explain the sensation yourself, but I’ll warn you it could leave you speechless!
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