Like probably many of you, riding a hot air balloon has been in my bucket list for a long time. Despite not being a big fan of heights- or rather flying- it has always been something I have wanted to try as I figured it is a gentle and smooth way of flying even though there is only a large basket hanging from a balloon keeping me safe in the air. Unlike flying in an airplane or helicopter (which I still have to try too) where there’s a lot of noise and movement around you I could imagine that taking off was a silent and rather slow process that would allow me t quickly adapt to the altitude and enjoy the ride, and while it certainly was silent it didn’t turn out to be as slow as I imagined.
Riding a Hot Air Balloon
Upon our Saturday 2 AM arrival to our hotel in Steamboat Springs there was a note for us saying that our hot air balloon ride scheduled for Sunday had been re-scheduled to Saturday at 8 am because of less than ideal conditions expected heading our way. With less than six hours of sleep ahead of us after a long day of travel we went to bed and were up just a few hours later. We woke up to a beautiful day of sunshine and no winds, made our way to the lobby where our guide was waiting for us and were taking to the take off zone right on the outskirts of Steamboat Springs. It was there that we met Ian, the balloon pilot, a British expat who literally” came to Steamboat Springs more than 20 years ago to become a ski bum” and has been the pilot of Wild West Balloon Adventures for just about the same number of years.
Getting everything in place appeared to be rather easy. By the time we arrived to the take off spot (which is rarely the landing spot too) they had the basket in the field and were beginning to heat the air to inflate the balloon. There was barely a breeze (which is perfect), no clouds to be seen… a perfect day to fly. The basket was big enough for 6 passengers plus the pilot, and as soon as the balloon was standing vertical we were told to step into the basket. We were given some brief safety tips (which were mostly applicable when landing) and began to drift upward shortly after.
I have to admit I was surprised at how quickly we gained altitude. Less than a minute after beginning our ascent I took the picture you can see above this line, and as you can see we were already quite high. Still, everything went so smoothly that it was impossible not to enjoy the ride. The lovely views were second to none, and I could only imagine what it would like to do this same flight during the months of winter, when everything is covered in snow and ice.
It was interesting to see how Ian controlled which way we were heading by climbing or loosing height. Wind moves in different directions according to height and it is like this that hot air balloons are flown. To know which way the wind is blowing and at what height pilots have to gain some altitude, literally spit outside the basket and watch which way it sways and were. With this the information the pilot can determine at what altitude he has to be to guide the balloon one direction or another.
After about 45 minutes of flying we began to head down again. The pilot had radioed the rest of the team where we would be landing and we were told to take our last few pictures from the sky.
We slowly made our way back to land and were told to hang on right before the basket hit the ground, one of the paved roads that has little to no traffic. As there was still no wind the process was as smooth as it can be and the basket was barely dragged a few meters. We quickly got out, took a picture and in less than ten minutes it had all been put away in the pick up truck and were all in the van heading back to the take off spot.
Once there we had a breakfast waiting for us, Ian told us some interesting stories about the early days of balloon flying and we all toasted with champagne to our successful first flight. What a great morning!
Safe, fun and enjoyable, riding a hot air balloon was all I had imagined. I felt comfortable at all times and the great mood Ian was able to share among all the passengers made the trip even more enjoyable. There is no doubt that the beautiful surrounding make the trip even more enjoyable, but if you ever have a chance to ride a hot air balloon make sure you don’t miss it- it’s something you’ll remember the rest of your life!
Our fantastic ride was a courtesy of Wild West Balloon Adventures as part of our fam trip with Steamboat Springs Tourism, however I was not asked to write this post and all pictures and opinions in it are entirely my own.
Have you ever ridden a hot air balloon? Where was this? If you haven’t, is it something you would like to try? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below and this post too if you liked it!