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Vice President Pence's Aspen visit costs hot air balloon business thousands in lost revenue

| Monday, Jan. 1, 2018, 8:48 p.m.
Vice President Mike Pence speaks to troops in a hangar at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.
Vice President Mike Pence speaks to troops in a hangar at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

A hot air balloon company was forced to stay on the ground during one of the busiest weeks of the year thanks to Vice President Pence's visit to Aspen, Colo. over Christmas.

The owners of Above It All Balloon Co., a hot air balloon operation based in nearby Snowmass Village, said flight restrictions prevented them from operating at all during Pence's six-day stay at the popular ski resort.

“When you conduct business in a nice place to visit like Aspen, you do get the occasional political visitor along with movie stars and celebrities and when it's a security thing like that they issue a notice,” Pam Wood, who co-owns the company with her husband, Bruce, said Monday.

All flights were temporarily banned from an airspace covering three nautical miles over the Pences' vacation residence.

Unfortunately, Wood's launch site fell within the no-fly zone.

“In the past sometimes we were able to measure it and see that we were outside the range and could still fly,” Wood said. “But this time they were about one mile from our launch site and we weren't able to fly at all during their visit.”

Wood said she was understanding of the security measures, but wishes she'd been notified of Pence's visit before his arrival, so she could secure permits to launch flights from a different location-and do business over a week that's usually the most profitable of the winter season.

“I found out the morning of his arrival. We weren't given any advance notice. I couldn't try to plan and change our launch site because we need insurance and approvals and permits and to try to move that on such short notice was impossible,” Wood told the Daily News.

Pence and his wife Karen arrived in the Aspen area on Dec. 26 and stayed at a secluded residence off of Owl Creek Road outside of Snowmass Village.

His vacation neighbors taunted him by hanging a rainbow flag that read “Make America Gay Again.”

Wood estimates that she and her husband were forced to forgo between $15,000 and $20,000 in earnings.

Woods said her staff too was disappointed that they couldn't work.

“They were in limbo during a busy time hoping the vice president would leave early, but that didn't happen,” she said.

This isn't the first time a VIP visitor has had an effect on local business.

Wood recalls Michelle Obama's 2015 visit to Aspen with daughters Sasha and Malia.

“She came out with her daughters but would typically stay closer to Aspen so we were able to still conduct flights,” Wood said. “This isn't the first time, but it's very disappointing that we had poor weather right before Pence and good weather for flying while he was here.”

Pence departed Aspen on Monday but Wood said the conditions weren't suitable for flying.

Nevertheless, she's confident that business will bounce back.

“It's one of those things where it could have been weather or a politician. Winter has its ups and downs and we hope it will fill in at some point,” Wood said.

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