Filzmoos is the prettiest of Austrian villages nestled in the “ski amadé” region of Salzburgerland. It lies in a pine-clad valley at the base of the Bischofsmütze Mountain surrounded by a winter wonderland of wooden chalets, fir trees and sparkling alpine scenery. But Filzmoos has a bit more to offer than skiing, snow-boarding and hiking. It’s also known as Austria’s Balloon Village…
Every January in Filzmoos a multitude of brightly coloured hot-air balloons lift gently into the skies against a snowy backdrop of majestic mountains. 2016 saw the 37th International Dopgas Balloon Trophy take place and I was in town with Inghams to check out the high-flying fun. We walked the ten minutes from our hotel, The Alpenkrone, as the sun struggled to break through the misty alpine morning to Hammerweise, the field where the race starts and the balloons take off.
Filzmoos – The Balloon Village
Teams come to Filzmoos from all over the world to participate in the challenge. The first of around forty balloons were being unpacked and laid onto the snow ready for unfurling and filling. Chunky wicker baskets were pulled into place on sleds and attached to the balloons whilst huge fans were set up to start filling the billowing silks. Gas is used to finish filling the balloons and vigorous noisy bursts accompanied bright shafts of flame as the balloons became plump and rounded. The trees were now obscured by balloons in various states of fullness as they jostled for space gradually growing bigger and bigger. Eager to depart they were kept from escaping too soon by the tethers and ballast used to keep them down.
A flurry of activity surrounded each basket as people hurried to climb in ready for imminent take-off. And suddenly we were waving and craning our necks as they were briskly carried away. The balloons rose rapidly into the sky, which was now a crisp blue, and the sun lit the coloured silks as one by one they grew smaller and eventually disappeared into the distance. The race was on.
The Dopgas Balloon Trophy
Over the next hour all the balloons took off from the field and lifted into the mountain air and set off on their way. Of course, a balloon race can’t be judged on speed nor can a destination be set because the wind and thermals over the alpine ranges are constantly changing. The Dopgas Balloon Challenge is won by the team who travels the furthest distance, We would discover who the winners were that evening at Filzmoos Balloon Night.
Filzmoos Balloon Night
Hammerweise the same evening is a completely different scene. The field is crowded with people, the spicy smell of gluewein wafts in the air and stalls are selling iced gingerbread and small Austrian chocolate covered cakes. The ink-black skies are clear and speckled with stars and it’s very cold but the balloons, back from their travels, are casting a warm glow as they take turns to light up in time to the music.
In the blackness of the field random balloons would suddenly light up like light giant lightbulbs as blasts of flaming gas are fired into them. They were a bit hit and miss to photograph because I had no idea which one would light up next!
It was really toasty wandering amid the balloons as we were warmed by the gas lighting them up – the spicy mug of hot gluewein helped too. We left the field to stand back and get an overall view of the balloons and see the spectacle from a distance. Our timing was perfect because the music started to build up to a choreographed finale accompanied by the glowing hot-air balloons. Pop classics like The Eye of the Tiger and Bryan Adams’ Summer of ’69 belted out as the balloons glowed and dimmed in time to the music. A crescendo of Carmina Burana and a firework display brought the Filzmoos Balloon Night to a close.
I didn’t know anything like Filzmoos Balloon Night existed until I saw it for myself and will now be on the look out for more events like this. Have you been to an event like this? Where did you see the balloons light up the night?
The 38th International DOPGAS Balloon Trophy is from 14 – 21 January 2017 but Filzmoos has good family skiing in the winter months and is perfect for hiking and biking in the Summer.
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For more information or to book visit www.inghams.co.uk or call 01483 791 114.
For more information on Filzmoos visit: www.filzmoos.at
Disclaimer: My thanks to Inghams who kindly invited me to Filzmoos to check out the hot air balloons, skiing and delicious Austrian food.