Hundreds of hot air balloons glide over Swiss Alps

Saturday marked the start of the 40th International Hot Air Balloon Festival in the ski resort of Chateau d’Oex in western Switzerland.

The nine-day event draws hundreds of hot air balloons as well as pilots from about 20 countries. Special activities typically include tethered rides, a children’s day on Wednesday and a night-time show on Friday. The hot air balloon festival wraps up on February 4.

Weather conditions on opening day were less than optimal, with fog in the morning and unsafe ground conditions for tethered rides.

In 1999, it was from Chateau d’Oex that adventurers Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones – piloting the Breitling Orbiter – set off for the first world tour in a hot air balloon. In more recent years, Piccard has been championing the use of solar power.