Warmer temperatures were in order today (up to a high of 28°F) and loads of sunshine for the 33rd International Hot Air Balloon Festival in Château d’Oex, Switzerland that began on Saturday. The balloon racing pilots took to the skies on time this morning and the Château d’Oex hot air balloon passenger rides were running regularly today to the excitement of the fortunate reservation holders (Mother Nature does not always honor your reservations). For bigger thrills and higher altitudes, Air Glacier, Switzerland’s alpine rescue and recreation helicopter organization, flew festival spectators around the Swiss Alps in the region.
Air Glacier: image courtesy of Wikimedia commons by Sputniktilt
The serious balloonists were able to demonstrate their skills and precision flying in the various competitions that began yesterday with “The Two Gruyères”. The races and competitive activities will continue through Friday. Pilots must have a minimum of 200 flying hours of which 50 hours are in the mountains. They are also required to have 10 flying hours within the last 12 months. There are many more stipulations since we are in Switzerland and security is primordial here, but I won’t go into the details.
Château d’Oex, Switzerland. Image courtesy of Dominique Schreckling
The line up for the competition will include a variety of long and short distance “races” with such names as “The Don Quichotte Trophy” (yes, spears are involved), “The Hare and the Hounds” (which in the French name is Fox hunt), “Fly back”, “Race to the Line”, “Double Drop”, “Rougemont Target”, and the “Saanen-Château d’Oex Friendship Flight” (Sannen is a nearby German speaking village rival). But the one that could require the most skill is the Parmigiani High Precision Flight competition. Since the festival is sponsored by luxury watchmaker Michel Parmigiani this tricky task involves flying around a post with a Parmigiani gift box hanging from it and the pilots will try to grab it (using the “Don Quichotte” spears will be considered fair play). I leave it up to you to guess what is in the Parmigiani gift box!
Nearby Swiss village of Saanen, Canton of Bern. Image courtesy of Wikimedia commons by Roland Zumbühl
Some of the big winners last year were pilots Roland de Mongolfier, descendent of the hot air balloon inventors, Bertrand Piccard (well if he can get around the world!), and “spot-of- tea” pilot friend, John Armstrong.
Another good weather forecastfor tomorrow. Follow me on Twitter for more “hot air” from Château d’Oex.