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Colourful Climb Ballooning tradition flies high in Swiss Alps

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Switzerland has a rich history of ballooning, and the sport is still popular with 70 pilots from 15 countries attending last week’s International Festival of Balloons in Château d’Oex. (Julie Hunt/SRF/swissinfo.chexternal link)

The week-long event in the ski resort in canton Vaud is the biggest of its kind in the Alps, and is responsible for about 15% of total annual overnight stays, providing a tourism boost during low season.

The Swiss have long been connected to ballooning. Two Swiss scientists from the same family had a great impact on the pastime. In 1932, Auguste Piccard, a physicist, inventor and explorer, became the first to achieve a manned flight to the stratosphere, reaching 16,201 metres (53,153 ft) and setting the new altitude record.

In 1999, his grandson, Bertrand Piccard, and English balloonist Brian Jones, became the first to fly around the world in a hot air balloon, the Breitling Orbiter 3.

However, it costs about CHF15,000 ($15,015)to become a qualified balloon pilot – a big hurdle for getting into the sport as a young person. swissinfo.ch headed to the skies to find out if there is a future for the sport of ballooning.