Two hot air balloons took to the sky from Thredbo this week in a historic flight across the Snowy Mountains – the first time a hot air balloon has made the trip.
Balloon Aloft, the well-known hot air balloon operator from Canberra, first needed approval from the National Parks and Wildlife Service and company Kosciuszko Thredbo, which runs Thredbo Alpine Resort. The balloons both departed from Thredbo at sunrise on 26 August, and floated across the Kosciuszko National Park, and down the Crackenback Valley towards Jindabyne.
Craig Farrell from Balloon Aloft said the idea was a result of his long-held desire to fly a balloon above snow, a very unusual experience in Australia. After discussions with a fellow Canberra balloonist about the most scenic place to launch, they chose Thredbo, then researched the best conditions for the flight.
“Because we can’t steer our balloons, we need to be able to find the right wind speed and direction to allow us to fly where we want to go,” he said. “In this case, Jindabyne.”
To reach Jindabyne, the balloons needed to reach an altitude of 10,000 feet (more than 3km) before quickly descending towards Jindabyne through much calmer air patterns. The flight took around an hour and was everything the pilots hoped it would be.
“It was absolutely spectacular above stunning Thredbo and the beautiful Snowy Mountains, yet also technically challenging due to the alpine environment,” said Mr Farrell.
The conditions included minus 10 degrees at height and swirling ‘mountain waves’ which produce rapidly changing speeds and direction in flight.
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This one-off spectacle was an unexpected treat for early-bird visitors at the Thredbo resort. Media representative Brianna McShane, in Thredbo, said it was an amazing morning.
“Our days start before sunrise so we were lucky enough to witness the excitement of the balloon being filled and taking off,” she said.
“We could also see the incredulous expression of other early risers fetching coffee. It was an amazing morning.”