Rifle native brings fish tales to the tree lot | AspenTimes.com

Rifle native brings fish tales to the tree lot

Scott Weatherly has sap on his hands and a grin on his face as he stands in one of Aspen’s Christmas tree lots.

At Mr. Christmas Wreaths and Garland in the center of North Mill Station by Clark’s Market, Weatherly lifts up pine trees for families, spinning them around and dispensing advice.

But being surrounded by the trees is just one half of his double life spent in the mountains and at sea.

A fourth-generation Coloradan, Weatherly grew up in Rifle and has since seen far-flung places in the world through his love of the ocean. But he lands in Aspen once a year for the Christmas season.

In the summer, this particular Christmas tree lot is full of locals on lunch breaks, enjoying the sun. But around Thanksgiving Day, the brick plaza welcomes the culmination of kids in shopping carts, the occasional ring of the Salvation Army bell and the seasonal smell of pine trees.

Selling Christmas trees is far cry from Weatherly’s primary occupation, when he resides on a small boat in the ocean, pulling up fish in nets and breathing in the salty air.

From April to October, Weatherly runs his own fishing business on the deck of a boat in Alaska. He and a couple of other fishermen catch halibut and sockeye salmon on boats based out of Kodiak and Bristol Bay.

In Dutch Harbor, Alaska, Weatherly leases one of his boats every year for two months to a group of scientists who head out to sea to study Orca whales.

“They lease my boat to catalog the whales, taking photos of dorsal fins,” he says. “No two [fins] are the same.”

Weatherly and one of his employees caught 130,000 pounds of sockeye salmon this summer, barbecuing a fish on the deck every evening for dinner. It’s a peaceful, low-key existence, he claims.

“It’s a lot of fun to get back here every year and see the beautiful people,” he notes. “I spend six months just with a few other people every year, and it’s nice to get on a freedom bird and take off for Aspen, Colorado.”

Wearing a warm beaver fur hat that matches his burnt-orange mustache, Weatherly exudes a friendly, open attitude that must come along with his easygoing lifestyle. He offers up tips on choosing the right Christmas tree as though it’s his year-round profession.

The 6- to 7-foot fraser firs are the most elegant, fragrant trees, and better for ornaments. Balsam fir is also lovely, and better for lights. To keep a tree green and healthy, crush up some aspirin tablets and add them to the tree’s water.

Weatherly became a knowledgeable tree and wreath salesman when his high school friend, Michael Carter, “Mr. Christmas” himself, asked him three years ago to pitch in with the seasonal business. The pair harvest subalpine pine boughs for wreaths from the Flat Tops above Glenwood Spring.

Stretching end to end, Weatherly put together almost three miles of garland for the wreaths this year.

“It’s amazing to me how the spirit of Christmas just brings a different reality every year,” he says. “We see trees all the time, but at this time of year, the Christmas tree is so traditional that it becomes the most important thing in the house.”

Weatherly has dodged delicate glass sculptures while wrangling a large pine through the open double doors of a Red Mountain mansion, and last year took six trees to musician John Oates’ ranch in Woody Creek.

The Mr. Christmas tree lot adds its own flair to the tree-shopping experience every weekend, with Santa Claus flying in from the North Pole to perform Christmas tunes karaoke-style and take gift requests on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“He’s a cool dude ” kind of a rock ‘n’ roll Santa,” says Weatherly.

Ten percent of gross sales on the tree lot benefit Aspen Junior Hockey. Last year the lot sold every tree it had, and raised $3,767.03.

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com]

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