Local Spotlight: Bruce and Pam Wood with Above It All Balloon Co.
All it took was one balloon ride at the annual Snowmass Balloon Festival in the late ’80s.
One ride and that’s when Bruce Wood knew he wanted to get into hot air ballooning and become a pilot himself.
“It was just such a unique experience,” Wood said, recalling his first flight and how it inspired him.
Now, more than three decades later, Wood and his wife, Pam Wood, have their own company, Above It All Balloon Co., where they’ve been able to offer locals and visitors a unique hot air balloon experience, launching from Snowmass Village for the past 25 years.
“It was a lot of blood, sweat and tears,” Pam said of operating the Above It All Balloon Co. “But when you have the opportunity to give someone their very first hot air balloon flight and they’re just ecstatic and jumping up and down waiting to get in the balloon, that makes it all worth it.”
Soon after Bruce’s first balloon ride, he began crewing for a local valley balloon company and working toward his pilot’s license.
A move out of the valley and several years later, he and Pam went into business with their close friend Bill Hodgden, who had originally started the Above It All Balloon Co.
Through the company, the Woods and their team aim to offer a safe, high quality experience for all local and visiting riders, launching at sunrise from the Snowmass Town Park area, traveling 6 to 8 miles down Brush Creek Valley and over some of the lower ridges to the west in a roughly one hour flight, and ending with a champagne toast.
“We’ve always felt like we’ve offered a really high quality flight experience,” Pam said.
“When we first started ballooning we decided that we wanted to operate as safely as possible and that we never wanted to reach a point where we had to make money and would push the boundaries of offering a flight even though it might not be safe. … That’s been very important to us and I’m grateful and proud that we’ve maintained that over the years.”
Now amid the coronavirus pandemic, that commitment to safety has risen to another level. Pam and Bruce said Above It All is still offering early morning flights, but that group sizes are limited and increased health safety and sanitation protocols are in place.
And although the couple said they look forward to when more normal, in-person socializing can take place, both said they felt this year’s Snowmass Balloon Festival was a great success and cool thing to continue being a part of.
“I thought they did a really good job of trying to figure out ways to accommodate more distancing,” Bruce said, giving a nod to the drive-in concept and push to get more people out hiking and biking to see the festival.
“I don’t think it quite offers the same experience as being right there on the field with the balloons, but given the circumstances I thought it was a great alternative.”
Pam agreed, emphasizing that Above It All Balloon Co. will continue to do its best to offer high quality and safe flight experiences — during and post COVID-19 crisis.
“We just hope to keep doing what we’re doing. And like everyone else are hoping that we can find some solutions to this current pandemic situation so people can interact closer together and enjoy things the way we used to,” Pam said. “But until that happens, we’ll just have to keep maintaining those distancing and safety protocols and try to keep offering beautiful flights to smaller groups and more private flights, like we’ve been doing.”