Uptick in Christmas tree permit sales aligns with outdoor trends

The sun peaks through the branches of conifer trees in the Hunter Creek Valley in Aspen on Friday, Dec. 4, 2020.

Cut-your-own Christmas tree permits are always popular in the White River National Forest — and this year is no exception.

The forest service has already sold nearly 6,500 tree-cutting permits for the White River National Forest at $10 each this year, according to Public Affairs Officer David Boyd. About 40% of those sales occurred online (a new feature this year); the other 60% have been sold in person, mostly through vendors throughout the Roaring Fork Valley and in Eagle, Avon, Vail and Breckenridge.

“That’s about all of what we sold last year,” Boyd said. “It looks like we’re on track to sell more this year.”

All year, the White River National Forest has seen an increase in outdoor recreation as more people seek refuge from COVID-19 restrictions in the great outdoors. The uptick in tree permit sales is “fitting right in” with that trend, Boyd said.

“Certainly this year all outdoor recreation activities seem to be as busy as we’ve ever seen,” he said.

Even so, “it’s hard to say for sure” whether that activity will translate to any deluge of demand for Christmas tree permits in December, Boyd said. Most sales happen during the “busy, busy time” in late November and the first week of December.

But there are still three weeks until the holiday — and plenty of time to acquire a permit and chop down a tree, Boyd said.

A plane flies over the Hunter Creek Valley in Aspen on Friday, Dec. 4, 2020. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

For first-time choppers — yes, even those masters of spatial awareness — Boyd recommends measuring space for the tree at home and bringing a measuring tape into the forest. It may be easy to select a six-foot tree among other six-foot trees at a lot, but in the forest, towering evergreens can make even substantial trees look small in comparison.

“You look at this tree out in the forest and you think that is a perfect size tree,” Boyd said. Once it’s out of the forest and in the living room, that ideal Tannenbaum turns into a beast of a tree.

Boyd also recommends using a handsaw, not a chainsaw, to cut down a tree.

“Be prepared for the weather and take the appropriate vehicle,” Boyd added. Some Forest Service roads are limited to over-snow vehicles, like snowmobiles, in the winter; the Forest Service indicates those routes on Christmas tree maps available on their website.

And although it may be an easy jaunt into the woods to select a tree, the exit and transport strategy can be just as important: “Think about how you’re going to get it to your vehicle.”

Even seasoned experts in the Christmas tree hunt should heed advice this year on crowding in popular, easily-accessible tree-cutting spots. To mitigate the spread of COVID-19, Boyd said, “spread out and hit different areas” — for both tree-cutting and other outdoor recreation.

“Just expect that you’re going to see a lot of people out there, more than you’ve probably seen in the past,” Boyd said. “Have a plan B or a plan C in place if you get somewhere and it’s full.”

For more information on Christmas tree guidelines, or to purchase a permit, visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/whiteriver/home/?cid=fseprd602158.

Email Kaya Williams at [email protected].

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