Ask those who have taken a ride a couple of thousand feet in the air, and they’ll tell you there’s nothing like seeing Colorado from a hot air balloon.
“I love it. It’s really pretty. You can see everything; the mountains all around us. It’s really cool,” said passenger Jordan May during a recent trip.
Steamboat Springs is well known for its champagne powder in the summer, but the Yampa Valley is also gaining notoriety as a popular place to visit in the summer.
Hot air balloonist Ian Cox regularly takes passengers high above the valley in his “Wild West” hot air balloon.
“Good morning, everyone and welcome on board. My name is Ian. I’m going to be the pilot this morning,” Cox greeted visitors before they lifted off when a CBS4 crew was there.
“I’m going to go ahead and put some heat in here and see if it still works,” said Cox. “Is that high enough folks?” he asked as he laughed.
Cox guided the hot air balloon basket filled with people high into the early morning sky.
“We’re almost 2,000 feet above the ground right now, and we’re moving along at 11.5 mph. We’re climbing at 200 feet a minute,” said Cox.
The seven passengers on the flight had never flown like this before.
“It was different from what I expected, very smooth. It thought it would be rougher. I thought it would be cold. I thought that we would go faster, but it was just a very relaxing experience,” said passenger Brenda Bradford.
John and Paula Lee were visiting Colorado from Bristol, England, also the site of Europe’s largest hot air balloon festival. The couple had only enjoyed hot air balloons from the ground, until now.
“It’s very peaceful, very quiet, relaxing,” said Paula Lee.
“This is absolutely fantastic. It’s one of those things on your list, that you want to tick off. So we chose Steamboat and this vista is absolutely tremendous, a thrill of a lifetime,” said John Lee.
Cox believes the Yampa Valley is tailor-made for floating through the air.
“It’s ideal for ballooning. There’s a big wide valley, plenty of scenery and usually good conditions here, particularly in the summer,” said Cox.
While floating through the air is seemingly effortless, landing can be tricky. Cox talked the passengers through the steps for a smooth landing.
“What we’re doing is we’re coming down on an approach and just seeing where the wind is going to take us when we get a little lower. I’ve got a few landing sites in my future here. What I’d like everyone to do is face the direction we’re drifting in, bend your knees, legs together,” said Cox.
“Okay guys, here we go. Hold on tight. Alright, yes!” Cox exclaimed as the balloon landed on the pavement with a bump and was secured by some handlers waiting on the ground.
Some passengers said they were a little apprehensive about coming in for a landing when asked.
“We were a little nervous, yeah. But it was beautiful,” said one passenger.
Contact Wild West Balloon Adventures at 970.879.7219, or check out www.wildwestballooning.com for prices.
Take Highway 40 from Kremmling over Rabbit Ears Pass into Steamboat Springs, or take Highway 131 north from Wolcott, west of Vail, into Steamboat.