This Information is provided for your safety, comfort, and general knowledge.
Please allow 3-4 hours for the entire hot-air balloon event.
Dress comfortably with proper footwear as if you were going for an early-morning, off-trail hike. We are in rough country. As it does get a bit cooler for every 1,000 feet of altitude, dress warm, but in layers. You might be pleased to know that there are (at least) two hot-air balloon 'burners' directly over-head, producing 18 million btu's each. They generate a powerful bit of radiant heat, so a hat is strongly recommended. We provide hearing protection.
HOW TO ENTER THE BALLOON BASKET
For your convenience, a step-ladder is provided for entering the hot-air balloon basket and each basket has foot-holes on the end of the passenger compartments to aid in entering. There is no graceful way the exit the balloon basket.
WHEN NATURE CALLS . . .
There are no facilities on board a hot-air balloon...so go easy on your morning coffee. We do provide bottled water along with the flight. But still....
Which leads us to the subject of...
MOTHER NATURE (in which She...)
...has never made an obvious effort to accommodate the needs of a hot-air balloon voyage. Therefore, each hot-air balloon flight is subject to the weather conditions of the day. If all necessary conditions are not ideal, the balloon-flight will be canceled and rescheduled. (see:Flight Rates)
(and, gentle reader, please note...)
LAUNCHING is optional.
First, we need to determine in what general direction we will fly at altitude (2,000-plus feet above the surface). That information is collected on-site by releasing helium balloons and tracking their 'flight' for as long as 20 minutes. With that knowledge (and the latest information from the local NWS) we consult our area charts to determine if there are suitable landing sites down-wind from our current site. If not, we locate an appropriate launch-site that is now up-wind of available landing sites indicated on the charts. Desirable conditions for a launch include; calm surface-winds, dry launch-site, favorable wind direction and appropriate landing sites (sometimes, maybe) 30 miles away. Ultimately, the direction of the balloon flight is determined by the direction of the upper wind layers. It is very important to know just where we are going. After all, we are in the mountainous terrain of Western Montana.
...which leads us to...
All hot-air balloon pilots operate in an environment that cannot be controlled, predicted or seen. So...how DO we steer a hot-air balloon? Actually...we don't. But, we do take full advantage of various layers of air, found at different altitudes, which will allow a hot-air balloon pilot to change direction and/or speed, simply by changing altitude. Think: (in the manner of a sailboat...but) tacking in 3 dimensions. Although, as we approach the surface, things are not always so easy. Again...this is Western Montana's mountainous terrain.
...and finally, we make our attempt at...
...which is mandatory
Landings are the most important stage of any hot-air balloon flight. Ideally, we try to land when and where the winds are light and favorable. Balloon Landings can often be so gentle that you may not even realize you are back on the ground, but...not always. (see: Mother Nature) Rarely, upon landing, we encounter winds somewhat stronger than those at the launch site. If they are excessive, the pilot will give directions regarding proper techniques for a high-wind landing. Text-book, really. Here in Western Montana there is an adage: 'If it don't buck...it ain't a rodeo.' ...such as it is. Upon landing, we offer the traditional champagne toast supported with a variety of family-friendly beverages, famous giant Montana Muffins, and the Proof of Participation certificates. And now, on to...
We try to accommodate children of all ages, but they must be manageable and attentive enough to understand (and comply with) directions from the pilot. Which generally means at least 8 years of age. The loudness of the hot-air balloon burners can be unpleasant to sensitive ears. A hot-air balloon flight should not be traumatic for anyone, and some balloon flights are not appropriate for children.
Please advise our staff when you call to book a flight.
Health restrictions may apply. It is very important that each passenger have the ability to enter and exit the balloon-basket unassisted. Inform the reservation agent (and pilot) of any physical limitations, any recent medical issues, or any other issue that may affect your safety during the flight. We will not fly expecting mothers (your special cargo is more important than our paltry $$$). There are no seats, and some flights have been as long as 2 hours. If you wish, you can take a break and sit on the balloon-basket floor. It is not uncommon to wake a passenger just prior to landing.
Depending on the hot-air balloon size, we can carry from 2 (with sand-bag ballast) to 10 people. Be sure to check how many are allowed. We fly at less than capacity so there is more room for everyone.
Good people, this is not a request. There is ABSOLUTELY NO SMOKING anywhere near hot-air balloons. For everyone's safety, this policy will be strictly observed by passengers and bystanders alike. We are dealing with typically dry conditions and, lately, some long periods without precipitation. Not to mention numerous flammable gases. NO SMOKING! We thank you for your understanding and cooperation.
Did we mention HIGHLY flammable gases??