Backcountry Christmas Tree Harvest

Post by blogger | December 11, 2006      

One of my favorite backcountry trips is our annual Christmas tree harvest. It’s always fun driving into the highcountry and getting a taste of winter in a way that’s more about taking a close look at the woods than hunting for powder turns.

Backcountry skiing Christmas tree cut
Getting our tree. We backcountry skied past where most other pickers trudge to, so we had a good pick of the crop.

When you go to the Forest Service office to get a tree cut permit, they read you the riot act about not cutting any Blue Spruce (our state tree). Of course it follows that Blue Spruce are nice bushy things that make the best Christmas trees. Hence, it always amuses me when during a weekend before Christmas we drive to the harvest spot, and observe numerous SUVs heading down the road with Blue Spruce proudly displayed on their roof racks.

Truth be told, when you just moved here from the city, then stumbled though knee deep snow into the forest with your wife and three kids, you’re going to cut the first tree that looks good, not try to be a naturalist and spend time examining spruce needles trying to figure out the difference between a Blue and an Engleman — or a Doug Fir for that matter.

In our case we do know how to tell the difference, so rather than risk “jail time” (which is how the ranger described the consequences of cutting a Blue), we cut an Engleman. Ironically, we cut our tree this year out of a power line path where all trees are cut by loggers every few years — including any Blue Spruce. Makes me laugh when I think power line loggers trump family Christmas tree pickers when it comes to who gets to cut a Blue. Seriously — shows you where our American priorities are. No wonder we have too much carbon dioxide. I say get rid of the power lines and let us cut a few Blue Spruce for our favorite holiday. Hmmm, perhaps getting off the grid has more going for it than I thought.

Backcountry skiing Christmas tree cut
Sweet to look around the winter wild. This year the willows near a wetland had an amazing amount of hoard frost hanging off their branches.


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3 Responses to “Backcountry Christmas Tree Harvest”

  1. Mark Worley December 11th, 2006 2:53 pm

    Picea pungens variety glauca shall not be touched!! Ha, that’s a laugh. That tree is ubiquitous throughout the West and much of the country, and I doubt it will be declining due to a few Christmas tree hunters. We had several of those at my Montana home. They are great, and I can see why people plant so darn many of them. Hope you enjoy your Engleman. Merry Christmas.

  2. David Aldous December 11th, 2006 4:50 pm

    Colorado blue spurces were not the most loved trees when I was working for a tree care service. They can be a real pain when they are no longer christmas tree sized, located between two buildings and need to come down. It is the only type of tree I’ve seen fall over by itself. Well there was a strong microburst (really I was nowhere near it with a saw). We had one summer where several trees fell over in microbursts and a large portion of them were blue spruces.
    Apparently lots of people like them because they are everywhere. I’m not concerned as much any more because they aren’t scratching my forearms on a regular basis. I just don’t see myself planting any of them when I buy a house.
    If you do have spruces at your house I strongly recommend against topping them. Topped spruces are some of the worst trees I’ve ever seen.
    I hope the Dawson family enjoys their Chrismas tree and that everyone has a good and safe Christmas.

  3. Josh Cullen December 12th, 2006 8:03 am

    Those ratty looking Engleman’s are a good choice, especially if you don’t want to bother getting a NFS product removal permit. Speaking from experience, it’s not recommended or in good taste to do this during the standard government working hours near popular access. Your tree costs will inflate to $75.00 plus a hefty $25.00 handling fee. Not sure whether you can include this as a deduction to federal taxable income at the end of the year.

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