Tim Jepson, The Daily Telegraph, December 09, 2013
The adventure: There are more strenuous winter adventures to be had in Aspen, Colorado, but none is as peaceful and sublimely beautiful as a flight above the mountains in a hot-air balloon. Dawn is the faintest glow above the rim of snow-covered peaks as you clamber into the basket and are lifted gently above the pines to drift skywards on the faintest whisper of wind. As the sun rises, so does the balloon, climbing into the icy air as one of the finest panoramas in North America unfolds on all sides. Silence reigns as you gaze at line upon line of mountains and a vast, snow-covered wilderness that stretches to the horizon, dappled with forest and dawn shadow, and etched a dazzling white against the immense blue sky.
How to do it: The Above It All Balloon Company operates from Aspen-Snowmass, at the heart of the Colorado Rockies. Flights cost $295 (£180) per person, booked directly or as part of a package. The balloons can accommodate two to 16 people. Flights last around an hour and conclude with a champagne breakfast. Longer and tailor-made private flights can also be arranged.
The accommodation: The Hotel Jerome in Aspen provides the perfect base for ballooning and a host of other winter activities. Built in 1888, and recently reopened after a sensitive multi-million-pound overhaul, the handsome building – a National Historic Monument – has been a favourite of visitors and residents over the years, not least the writer Hunter S Thompson, who made the hotel’s famous J-Bar his “office”.
When to go: The Above It All Balloon Company flies once daily, summer and winter, but flights are weather-dependent and can be cancelled at short notice, up to and including the morning of departure. All flights leave at dawn, following a free hotel pick-up, when winds are at their most manageable for ballooning.
The details: S cott Dunn offers seven nights’ b&b at the Hotel Jerome from £2,535 person, including return flight with BA, private transfers and a balloon trip. The company can arrange ski, board and other activities and excursions. For further information on winter adventures in the region, see aspensnowmass.com.