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Story #98Rainbow RydersAlbuquerque, NM

We’re that bucket list type of product. It’s a privilege to be a part of so many people’s memories.

Every morning, Rainbow Ryders hot air balloons take to the sky before the sun comes up. Since 1984, the Albuquerque, N.M.-based small business has been taking people on breathtaking journeys through the Southwestern sky in an estimated 1,700 to 1,800 flights per year. In addition to balloon rides, Rainbow Ryders offer their services for advertising, corporate marketing, special events, and more.

We’re that bucket list type of product. It’s a privilege to be a part of so many people’s memories.

In 1984, Scott Appelman was hot air ballooning recreationally when he decided to turn his passion into a career, starting his business with only himself and one two-passenger balloon. He started out small, offering rides to tourists, locals, and for special occasions, and over time the business grew to become the premier hot air balloon company in the Southwestern United States. He now has 60 employees, including his wife and daughters.

For Appelman, working with brands has been crucial to his company’s success and afforded him some of his most memorable experiences. One client, Dos Equis, flew over the Super Bowl and through Big Sky Montana ski area mountains for World of Adventure and was dubbed the “Ambassador of Adventure.” For the brands that he works with, it’s a way to “create hype in more of a unique way, as opposed to plastering their name on a billboard.”

Despite these big milestones in his career, Appelman’s favorite moments are with the individuals who forge their own memories on his balloon rides. He has seen engagements, weddings, anniversaries, family reunions, and more. “That’s a privilege, to be part of somebody’s life that way,” says Appelman. “Our whole team takes a lot of pride in being a part of those moments.”

Appelman hopes that his business will continue to grow, and expand to some new cities, offering more people the chance to create lifelong memories. “People want that experience, and that’s why this business works.”

Photos by Shaul Schwarz

  • Rainbow Ryders is a family business - his wife is the company’s vice president and his daughters also work for the company.

  • After their sunrise balloon rides, Rainbow Ryders does a champagne toast and breakfast with their customers.

  • A Rainbow Ryders hot air balloon is deflated following its morning ride.

  • “I don’t think you’ll ever see someone stop on the highway to take a picture of a billboard, but you will see that with hot air balloons,” says Rainbow Ryders owner Scott Appelman on the benefits of advertising on hot air balloons.

  • In addition to owning Rainbow Ryders, Scott Appelman is the president of an organization called the Professional Ride Operators Division of the Balloon Federation of America, which promotes safe and ethical hot air balloon rides, and he and his wife also produce a 75-balloon event in Colorado Springs.

  • In his time operating hot air balloon rides, Scott Appelman has witnessed proposals, weddings, anniversaries, family reunions, and more. “It’s a boutique type of business that gets you all kinds of opportunities you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to experience,” he says.

  • For Scott Appelman of Rainbow Ryders, working with brands has been crucial to his company’s success. For the brands, it’s a unique way to get their name out instead of advertising on billboards.

  • “I love seeing the smiles on people’s faces,” says Scott Appelman of Rainbow Ryders. “It’s really cool to be a part of people’s memories.”

  • Each Rainbow Ryders hot air balloon is capable of carrying seven to twelve people, and they do about 1,700 to 1,800 flights per year between Albuquerque and Phoenix.

  • Scott Appelman was hot air ballooning recreationally while he finished up school, and decided to make his passion his career. “I had to take care of my family, so we started a hot air balloon ride company to give rides to tourists, locals, and special occasions…that’s how we got it going and we’ve never looked back since.”

  • Rainbow Ryders offers daily sunrise balloon rides, and during the winter tourist season, they also do sunset rides.

  • Scott Appelman founded Rainbow Ryders in 1984 with only himself and one two-person balloon. The company has since grown into the premier hot air balloon company in the Southwestern United States, with 25 hot air balloons and 60 employees.

  • The Rainbow Ryders team inflates hot air balloons for their daily tours.

  • Every morning, the Rainbow Ryders team starts their day before the sun comes up, prepping balloons for sunrise tours.

Business Details

Proprietor: Scott Appelman
5601 Eagle Rock Avenue NE Albuquerque, NM 87113
PH: 800-725-2477 / Website
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