Balloons decorate Durango sky for annual Snowdown rally

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DURANGO, Colo. — Durango transforms from a quiet mountain town into a lively party during its annual Snowdown – and one of the hallmark traditions is the Snowdown Balloon Rally.

This year, there was no shortage of snow.

“We are not going to use the dedicated (area) because there is three feet of snow and we can’t get in there, if the elk are having a hard time, we are not doing it,” said Doug Lenberg, assistant balloon meister for Snowdown.

That didn’t stop the rally. Instead, the mass ascension was scattered across Durango. The cold temperatures allowed for around 20 balloons to take flight. 

“It was 9 degrees when I got up, its 22 degrees now – but it makes for some incredible flying,” Lenberg said. “The colder weather allows us to fly longer and generally, it’s much calmer.”

And while these balloons give a pop of color to the February skies from the ground, it’s the views of Durango from up in the air, that makes it a favorite destination for pilots.

“If you’ve never been in the sky and seen the icicles over some of these pine trees and flown over 200 head of elk and just gently floated down this valley, it’s an experience that you can hardly describe,” Lenberg added.

It’s that experience that brought David Eichhorn, the pilot of Western Spirit to Durango with his one-of-a-kind balloon.

“This balloon was hand-painted back in the ’80s,” Eichhorn said. “At the time when it was made, it was the most expensive balloon ever made because it is hand-painted.”

While Eichhorn has other balloons, this one was perfect for Durango.

“Well, this is Durango, if any place appreciates cowboys, it’s Durango, so I love this rally, it’s a great place to fly and it’s great people we get to meet and interact with, so I like showing off my balloon.”

The Snowdown Balloon rally will have a balloon glow Saturday evening, along with mass ascensions on Saturday and Sunday morning.