‘Absolutely perfect’ weather conditions accompany massive ascent of 2022 Animas Valley Hot Air Balloon Rally – The Durango Herald

More than 25 pilots take off on Saturday morning

Huge hot air balloons slowly come to life in Hermosa Meadows as flight crews blow hot air through the balloon’s mouth and into the envelope during the massive ascent of the 2022 Animas Valley Balloon Rally on Saturday morning. (Christian Burney/Durango Herald)

Hundreds of people gathered at Hermosa Meadows northwest of Durango early Saturday morning to cheer on the mass ascent of hot air balloons on day two of the 2022 Animas Valley Balloon Rally.

Thirty-three balloons and crews were registered for this year’s festival and at least 25 took flight by 9:30 a.m. to ride in gentle breezes, bask in the warmth of the morning sun and enjoy the bright yellows, oranges and gold. the foliage of aspens and oaks preparing for winter.

Hot air balloons for the 2022 Animas Valley Balloon Rally take off Saturday from the Hermosa Meadows Road area and float through the Animas Valley toward Durango. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Jerry McBride

Saturday’s weather conditions were excellent for ballooning, said the pilots who took off on the mass ascent.

Eric Greenwood, an Albuquerque resident and the pilot of “Enchanted,” said the cooler weather introduced by fall is good for flying because it provides extra lift for balloons.

Big Top pilot Mark Whiting said the weather on Saturday was “absolutely perfect”.

Temperatures were around 45 degrees at 8 a.m. and soared to 55 degrees around 10 a.m., said Lucas Boyer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Grand Junction. The wind speed did not exceed 5 mph.

Hot air balloons hovered haughtily 3,000 to 4,000 feet above US Highway 550 Saturday morning as the 2022 Animas Valley Balloon Rally kicked off its traditional mass ascent around 9 a.m. (Christian Burney/Durango Herald)

More than 25 balloons took flight over US Highway 550 near Hesperus on Saturday for the 2022 Animas Valley Balloon Rally. (Christian Burney/Durango Herald)

“It was a good morning for (the balloon) because we are still under this beautiful dome of high pressure and conditions,” he said. “With light winds and a cool temperature, the atmosphere has been really stable for several days.”

Hot air balloons for the 2022 Animas Valley Balloon Rally take off Saturday from the Hermosa Meadows Road area and float through the Animas Valley toward Durango. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Jerry McBride

But not all the pilots had the chance to take full advantage of the beautiful weather conditions. Whiting had to settle for captive rides on Saturday because of a tear that formed in his ball on Friday night.

“It’s a lot of heartache. I can’t fix this lion (illustration of a lion on the ball). I just have to do what I can,” he said. tape on the back, and then we’ll color the tape as best we can.”

“Big Top” has been a part of Whiting’s life since 1986, he said, as has “Western Spirit,” another rally balloon that was in good shape to fly Saturday morning.

Although disappointed, Whiting didn’t let the tearing of the ‘big top’ dampen his good spirits. He said he has been ballooning since 1979 and enjoys having children experience their first hot air balloon flight.

Mark Whiting, pilot of the balloon pictured called ‘Big Top’, said a tear in the balloon prevented him from joining his peers in the skies above Hesperus on Saturday. But he didn’t let that dampen his mood. An avid balloonist since 1979, Whiting said he loves seeing the faces of children when they see hot air balloons for the first time. (Christian Burney/Durango Herald)

He said children’s and adults’ eyes widen as they watch a balloon inflate and prepare to climb into the basket for a spin.

Whiting also enjoys the art of hot air balloon flight and landing. Balloonists have more control over their aircraft than some might think, he said. He loves the feeling of identifying a landing space and navigating varying air currents to position himself for the perfect landing.

Hot air balloons for the 2022 Animas Valley Balloon Rally take off Saturday from the Hermosa Meadows Road area and float through the Animas Valley toward Durango. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Jerry McBride

“You can feel the change in the wind on your skin. You can feel it on your arms. … But then it’s an art of sticking the ball in the layer (of air) that brings you back to that place,” he said.

On Saturday, the balloons were flying about 3,000 feet above the ground and moving at speeds of 2 to 3 knots per hour, he said.

Greenwood said this year was his seventh appearance in the Animas Valley Balloon Rally, but he’s been flying in the Durango area for more than 20 years.

Most of his crew are family members who, like him, grew up immersed in the world of hot air ballooning. He had people working with fans to inflate the “enchantment” while others held rope ties to hold the balloon to the ground, he said. Others were responsible for crowd control and making sure people didn’t step on the ball or trip over the ties.

Hot air balloons for the 2022 Animas Valley Balloon Rally take off Saturday from the Hermosa Meadows Road area and float through the Animas Valley toward Durango. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Jerry McBride

“We’re just having a good time. It’s like anything else: it’s a big hole in the ground that you throw money into,” he said with a laugh. “Just like a boat, just like an airplane, it’s the same thing. It’s just fun.

He said balloon maintenance is similar to other aircraft standards. Every 100 flight hours, or once a year, he inspects “every square inch” of the balloon, basket and equipment to make sure everything is in good condition.

“The fuel system is run through, everything is cleaned, everything is checked. The tanks are checked to make sure there are no cracks or anything in them,” he said.

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More than 25 balloons took flight over US Highway 550 near Hesperus on Saturday for the 2022 Animas Valley Balloon Rally. (Christian Burney/Durango Herald)

More than 25 balloons took flight over US Highway 550 near Hesperus on Saturday for the 2022 Animas Valley Balloon Rally. (Christian Burney/Durango Herald)

Hot air balloons for the 2022 Animas Valley Balloon Rally take off Saturday from the Hermosa Meadows Road area and float through the Animas Valley toward Durango. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Jerry McBride