Asher on Aspen : Where to get your Christmas tree in Aspen |

Asher on Aspen : Where to get your Christmas tree in Aspen

Shannon Asher
The author and friend, Chuck Harrington.

It’s about this time of year when Aspen begins to fill with wide-eyed, excited tourists eager to experience our charming mountain town. Idyllic holiday decorations and twinkling lights have been strategically placed around the downtown core, and the mountain is finally open for another epic season of skiing. To kick off the holidays and embrace the season, I scouted a local grocery store’s tree lot to find the perfect Christmas tree. To my dismay, they were charging upward of $70 per tree. I was shocked.

After doing some research, I learned a White River National Forest Christmas tree permit costs just $12. Thereafter, I convinced a couple of friends to accompany me on a Christmas-tree quest, and the decision to cut down our own tree was a no-brainer. With a saw, gloves, and a few beers thrown in the back of my friend’s truck, we set out on a tree hunt through the national forest. Having never done this before, I was excited for the adventure and thrill of it all.

We drove about 20 miles up Castle Creek Road and eventually found a spot near a lush grove of pines. It was here where we began our hike through the dense new-growth wood. According to the U.S. Forest Service, one must walk at least 100 yards off of the main road to start cutting. With my knee-high Sorrells and Strafe outerwear kit, I was ready for a snowy winter hike through the woods. The repeat song for the duration of our trek was a tune called “A Man and a Woman,” by Claudine Longet. Though not your typical Christmas carol, it seemed to fit the mood and the moment just right.

Our boots crunched through the snow with every step as our eyes scanned the forest. When searching for the ideal tree, one must forget the notion of finding the perfect Christmas tree. It doesn’t exist, and the sooner you accept this reality, the better. Instead, look for one that stands out to you. Hunting for a tree is similar to hunting for a piece of artwork for your home — either it speaks to you, or it doesn’t.

Getting lost in the woods with no service is a liberating feeling unmatched by few other things. I could have spent hours roaming the forest and observing the Narnia-like landscape. Even though we found our tree pretty early on, we decided to search a little longer to ensure we weren’t missing anything. Eventually looping back around, we settled on the first one we initially fell in love with.

We got down on our knees and began sawing. As we bent over to get a better look at the roots, an incredible smell of pine needles inundated our senses. Nothing beats the smell of a crisp, fresh evergreen.

While doing some research when obtaining the permit, I learned that having the real thing is actually better for the environment than purchasing a plastic re-usable tree. Due to the material that artificial trees are made from, most are not recyclable, and they end up in local landfills.

Additionally, the elimination of live trees actually helps forest health. Experts identify sections that will benefit from the thinning of small-circumference trees — which tend to be perfect Christmas-tree sizes. Removing these trees in designated areas helps other trees grow larger and can open up areas that provide food for wildlife. Hence, the U.S. Forest Service sells permits (available on that allow the public to cut their own trees from select national forests.

Though my crew argued it was too early for Christmas music, I somehow convinced them to at least play one holiday tune on our drive home. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” by Brenda Lee, sounded in the background as we drove home with our tree in tow. We hauled the tree inside and immediately began decorating.

With the fresh pine scent lingering throughout the house, I went on to watch It’s a Wonderful Life while dressing the tree with lights and ornaments. All in all, this was a pretty good day.