Seeking the best views in town is a permanent fixture on everyone’s travel checklist. Despite always searching for the best photo ops, riding a hot air balloon has never popped up on my radar. Common attractions for top views are usually roof top bars, skyscrapers, and city towers, though in Innsbruck you can raise your landscape photography to new levels with the mountain panoramas all around. For a truly new perspective, consider going above the obvious choices while riding in a hot air ballooning above the urban and alpine landscapes.
With no prior experience in winter sports, I worried that my mother wouldn’t have much to do during her three week visit. Days after she arrived, I realized that I couldn’t have been more mistaken – but now with only a few days left of her visit, we’re having to squeeze in activities wherever we can.
So far, we’ve enjoyed a wide range of experiences including night sledding, snow hiking, the Swarovski Crystal Worlds light show, dining, museums, and so much more. Pending activities include bobsledding, riding the scenic (Line 6) tram to Igls, and visiting a glacier.
I hadn’t even considered a hot air balloon ride, until I spotted Axamer Lizum advertising limited spaces for two days! Following Axamer Lizum on social media allowed us to be part of the lucky few that snagged the 15 euro tickets before they were sold out. The ride only lasted 10 minutes, but that seems fair for the cost.
Alpine Ballooning at Axamer Lizum
Andy and his team at Alpine Ballooning offer a variety of trips to accommodate any occasion. Sightseeing, romantic tours… You can even balloon across the Alps, crossing borders, and go all the way to the Adriatic Sea!
On this trip we flew from right next to the pistes at Axamer Lizum, near the new water storage reservoir. In order to open up the experience for as many people as possible flights were cut to around 10 minutes long, and the balloon was anchored to the ground with ropes – though we still flew well over 20-30 metres in the air! Other than the initial powerful roar of the burner heating the air in the canopy, hot air ballooning feels really peaceful and graceful. There isn’t much sensation of movement or flying; rather it just feels like you’re floating silently above the mountains, and the views are spectacular!
The hot air balloon flies in the same direction and speed as the wind. However, pilots are able to control the balloon direction by ascending or descending into varying wind directions. The balloon rises as it’s filled with hot air and descends as the air inside is allowed to cool. Steering a hot air balloon with wind directions is called “steerage”. Skilled pilots always take into consideration the wind directions at heights above and below the balloon. When riding a hot air balloon, all you need to worry about is taking in the scenery and snapping photos. Andy and his team take care of all the technical stuff.
I recommend dressing for the cold when riding in a hot air balloon as temperatures drop the higher you fly. The sunshine and flames above your head add a degree of comfort, but layer up.
Brief History of Hot Air Ballooning
The first opportunity to fly in a hot air balloon could have been awarded to condemned criminals, but ballooning pioneers Marquis Francois d’Arlandes and Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozie convinced King Louis XVI to grant them the honor of being the first to fly a hot air balloon.
Modern ballooning has experienced a revival since 1960, when Ed Yost launched a nylon envelope and propane burner system, much like we know today. Since then, ballooning enthusiasts have continued to develop the equipment and techniques. Now, many people own personal balloons for recreation and sport.
GET ON FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM TO CREEP ON THE TOURISM BOARD AND LOCAL ATTRACTIONS. Follow them and turn on notifications for their posts. You’ll be among the first to know about random events – like hot air ballooning, free Valentine’s Day BBQ and drinks, snow bike test runs and more. This is how I became aware of this limited space experience. Tickets were sold out days after the event was posted on Facebook and Instagram. Visitors on those days were also treated to free BBQ samples. Other random activities may include cultural traditions, live music, and seasonal events.