During this 37th edition in 2015, I was fortunate to be able to take two amazing balloon rides which could not have been more different.
[box_light]Two Amazing Balloon Rides[/box_light]
On the opening day, the lack of wind combined with the low cloud cover made most of the balloon rides almost impossible as they have little chance to travel away from the takeoff zone once in the air. I was nevertheless lucky to get one of the rare balloon rides in the morning. At first, as a photographer, I was a bit disappointed with the lack of sunshine in such a picturesque landscape, but despite the modest weather conditions, I was rewarded by a truly magical ride over the village of Château-d’Oex. The lack of sunshine turned the usual winter fairytale landscape into almost mystical scenery with snow-covered forests and mountain tops that were disappearing into the clouds. The roads and the river served as the only contrasts in a snow covered landscape. The balloon ride ended with an impressive flight just above the tree tops along the river at the bottom of the valley and a perfectly smooth landing.
A few days later, on a bright sunny but cold morning, I had the chance for another balloon ride. This time however, passengers were asked if any of us has any appointment since the pilot wanted to take a longer ride. We took off in postcard-perfect weather and viewed pristine snow-covered landscapes under a deep blue sky. The pilot paid close attention observing the weather to follow the stream keeping us inside the valley. Two hours later, we took a brief stop close to Gruyère Castle in order to swap an empty gas bottle for a full one. Then the pilot wanted to find a high altitude wind to push us back to Château-d’Oex. The balloon climbed to over 3500m (12’000ft) passing through different layers of clouds which formed during the morning. It was impossible to see the ground, but we could see all the major mountains of the region: Mont-Blanc, Jungfrau and the Matterhorn. The pilot again tried to read the weather observing the clouds and at one moment, he started to descend and as we got through the lowest cloud layer, the balloon was directly over the field of the festival. What an amazing balloon ride leaving Château-d’Oex in the early morning, descending along the valley, getting some wind at high altitude and then land back at the origin four hours after takeoff.
The highlight of the festival was undoubtedly a new special shaped balloon named “Dimitri” which was flying for the very first time. This balloon will most certainly become a favourite for many children in all of the balloon festivals in which it will appear.
Interested in experiencing this colourful hot air balloon festival yourself? See you in Château-d’Oex for the 38th edition from January 23rd to the 31st in 2016.