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Reuters/Pierre Albouy
Not of the garden variety.
THERE SHE BLOWS

Watch 80 hot-air balloons brighten Switzerland’s winter skies

By Jeanne Kim

Launching a sea of hot-air balloons into the skies of a country marked by frigid temperatures and blustering snow might seem unwise. But for decades Switzerland’s Chateau-d’Oex district has managed to lure throngs of spectators to its nine-day, international hot-air balloon festival at its namesake mountain resort, with more than 80 balloons from 20 countries. That’s because its calm microclimate boasts the cool temperatures that help hot air balloons launch without the usual accompanying wind and precipitation. (The greater the difference between the air in the balloon and the outside environment, the better the balloon’s lift.) The views also happen to be spectacular.

A launching point for the world’s first non-stop around-the-world balloon trip in 1999, the festival has already attracted some 5,000 spectators (link in French) to this year’s event, according to the Association Semaine de Ballons, the festival’s organizers.

In years past, balloons of a giant bumblebee, a three-tiered cake, and a bagpipe player, along with a night glow show, have been highlights. Here are some of this year’s sights from the air.

hot-air-balloon-intl-festival
Reuters/Pierre Albouy
hot-air-balloon-intl-festival
Reuters/Pierre Albouy
hot-air-balloon-intl-festival
Reuters/Pierre Albouy
hot-air-balloon-intl-festival
Reuters/Pierre Albouy
hot-air-balloon-intl-festival
Reuters/Pierre Albouy
hot-air-balloon-intl-festival
Reuters/Pierre Albouy
hot-air-balloon-intl-festival
Reuters/Pierre Albouy
hot-air-balloon-intl-festival
Reuters/Pierre Albouy