With a combination of romance and adventure, a hot air balloon ride is at the top of many bucket lists. I recently had the chance to take to the skies for my first hot air balloon experience with Wild West Balloon Adventures in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Floating above the valley and around the mountains is hands down one of the coolest adventures I’ve had in the sky -- the experience was magical, thrilling and surreal.
On the first day in town we woke up early and hopped on a shuttle, heading towards the take off area. There we were greeted by Bud Whitehead, the pilot and owner of the company as well as plenty of snacks and coffee.
Bud showed us the ropes as we learned how they use a little balloon to test the wind currents.
It was amazing to see just how big the balloon was, I was shocked seeing it all laid out.
After it was up and going we jumped in the basket, learned about procedures and up we went. We floated for 45 minutes going up and down with the wind currents. It didn’t even feel like we were moving which amazed me.
The big thing though was the amazing views. We could see over the mountains for miles, a river that meandered across the valley and got a great view of the ski resort.
I could have stayed up there for hours! When it was time to land we slowly went down and gently landed on a road in front of a person's home and just like that it was over.
Bud then gave us all ( 21 and up only) a glass of champagne. I got a mimosa and he told us the history behind the celebration. (Bud told it so well so I won’t spoil it here)
It was a trip of a lifetime that left me speechless and I even learned a few things about hot air ballooning.
What I learned on my first hot air balloon tour:
Hot air balloon distances will vary
The distance you travel will vary greatly. It’s closely tied to wind speed and direction.
The weather dictates the journey
This is why weather is so important and why sometimes a hot air balloon ride may be cancelled. The wind determines the direction. And it needs to be perfect.
The height you travel depends on different factors
Before the tour, I didn’t know how high the balloon would actually go. During the ride, I learned that these hot air balloons will fly at different altitudes. The pilot will decide the best altitude for the weather conditions.
It takes a team to deflate the hot air balloons
After we landed, our pilot asked us to stay inside the basket while the team deflated the balloon. Once it was safe to get out of the basket, the crew packed up the balloon and folded it neatly for storage.
The landing location is always different
I found this to be the most fascinating part of the hot air balloon experience. The location of where the balloon actually lands will change depending on the wind. Hot air balloons cannot technically be steered, they simply float with the wind. Because of this, each landing location is different.
Be flexible with your schedule
Hot air balloon flights are highly dependent on the weather. Any chance of storms, high winds or anything that may affect a safe ride will usually result in the flight being cancelled. Balloon pilots and staff are experts at reading the wind and conditions in order to provide a safe and exhilarating flight experience.
Wear layers and bring a hat
We went when there was still snow on the ground so it could be chilly. For this Alaskan girl It was perfect. I wore two layers, a sweater and a puffy. However, it does get warm under the flames, keep that in mind.
Keep belongings secured.
Strap down phones, cameras, sunglasses or anything else you don’t want to lose. It is a long way down.
Enjoy the amazing views
Floating silently above the earth in a hot air balloon offers up some truly spectacular views. Take lots of pictures and simply enjoy the landscape below. Don't forget to make room on your camera for this trip, you will want it!!
Here is our experience up in the air!
One thing I wanted to put on here is the Hot Balloon Prayer:
The Winds have welcomed you with softness.
The Sun has blessed you with its warm hands.
You have flown so high and so well
that God has joined you in your laughter
and set you gently back again
into the loving arms of Mother Earth.
Travel tip: Given the unpredictability of weather, it’s best to schedule your hot air balloon tour early in your trip, just in case it gets cancelled. This way, you’ll have more chances to try again another day.