When Buddy Bombard was 12, his mom sat him down for a serious talk. “Buddy,” she said, “life is short. Seek out towering adventures.”

The young lad took his mom at her word, leaving the next day for a solo eight-mile bike ride to the nearest ocean where he hitched his first ride on a sailboat. For the next 20 years—from the age of 14 to 34–he crewed on many sailboats, eventually helping captain three America’s Cup yachts.

But by 1968, at the ripe old age of 35, Buddy began to fear life was passing him by. Sure, he’d seen many ports of the world, but he longed to see what was beneath the sea, what was beyond the port. His Dartmouth economics degree and his job as an insurance executive just wasn’t cutting it.

He offered to takeover the reins of the Chalet Club, a club of wealthy skiers who had bought a rail car, outfitted it with a player piano and stewardesses and used it to take them to the slopes of Stowe, Vermont each weekend. Buddy reckoned if these club members liked barreling down snow-capped mountains, they might be talked into jumping out of airplanes and rafting down untamed rapids. Soon the Chalet Club, under Buddy’s leadership, became what he called “a ski club gone berserk.” His members were pushing themselves further and further afield. One of the early trips even involved scouting the Loch Ness monster. Buddy’s Chalet Club became for all practical purpose the world’s first adventure travel company.

Today, Buddy, an Air Force jet pilot, skier, scuba instructor, honored balloon pilot, gourmet and renowned raconteur, helms his own company, one he has been running since 1977. Buddy Bombard’s Europe specializes in ballooning adventures in Europe.

Buddy still personally escorts each trip. Thanks to his longstanding friendships with some of Europe’s most colorful nobility (Princess Manni Wittengenstein of Salzburg and Prince Girolamo and Princess Irinia Strozzi of Florence, to drop just a few names), Buddy’s guests often receive private invitations to ancestral estates. They dine in centuries old castles, in private villas, in posh French restaurants and even on-board the balloon.

Every January during the Chateau d’Oex International Alpine Balloon Festival, Buddy extends his normal “Highlights of the Alps” trip to take in the world famous festival that includes the best balloons from all over Europe. On this nine-day excursion through the Swiss Alps, three of Buddy’s nine 8-story, baby blue balloons catch the dawn thermals and compete in precision events with more than 100 balloons ranging from a huge winged cow to giant frog to a hot air balloon cell phone. You’ll float with this stellar fleet through quaint mountain villages, over herds of black chamois mountains goats, by walled medieval castles.

Many of Buddy’s guests combine the trip with a ski vacation in Gstaad, where the likes of Julie Andrews and Roger Moore have homes.

Buddy currently offers eight ballooning itineraries in six European countries (Austria, Czech Republic, France, Italy, Switzerland and Turkey) ranging from five to ten days in length. Buddy’s guests stay at luxury hotels chosen for their local charm and historical significance. When he’s not working, Buddy splits his time between a home in West Palm Beach, Florida and an estate, Château de Laborde, in Beaune, France.

Here’s the short list of customers you may have heard of: Julia Child, Joan Rivers, Mary Tyler Moore, Kirk Douglas, Helen Gurley Brown, Malcolm Forbes.

Click here for more info on plying the skies with Buddy.