Simple ways to modify a Christmas tree so it doesn’t look like Charlie Brown’s |

Simple ways to modify a Christmas tree so it doesn’t look like Charlie Brown’s

Matt Stensland/Steamboat Today
Steamboat Springs residents, from left, Andy Gilligan and Zac and Bob Riley pull out the perfect tree from the Routt National Forest in November 2013.
Matt Stensland/File

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — U.S. Forest Service recreation specialist Kent Foster has some tips for anyone wanting to harvest a tree from the Routt National Forest.

“People don’t necessarily like to go with me because I like to leave the nice trees,” said Foster, who has made harvesting a tree from the forest a tradition.

When scouring for a tree, the Forest Service encourages people not to take the perfect one, and for the health of the forest, people are encouraged to look for trees that are crowding other trees.

By cutting those trees down, it helps the forest environment by allowing the strong trees to remain.

Foster usually comes out of the woods with a Charlie Brown tree, but he has ways of making it more aesthetically pleasing.

He gets a taller tree than he needs and cuts off the lower branches. He then drills holes in the top part and inserts the branches to make it look more full.

“It’s a trick that I learned from someone else,” Foster said.

There is a high demand for the $10 Christmas tree permits, which are now available at Forest Service offices. Last year, about 1,850 of them were sold for the Routt National Forest.

As for the best places to hunt down a tree, Foster said it depends on the snow levels.

Areas up north off of Seedhouse Road and the Columbine area get deep fast, as does Dry Lake on Buffalo Pass.

The east side of Rabbit Ears Pass sees less traffic, and the selection might be better, Foster said

He encourages people to bring a shovel because trees should be cut at the base, and this might require digging through several feet of snow.

“Try to dig it out and cut the whole tree,” Foster said.

After Christmas, people can drop off their trees at the Howelsen Ice Arena.

The city of Steamboat chips the trees at no charge and then allows residents to use the material.

For the third year, the Every Kid in a Park initiative is offering one free Christmas tree permit to fourth-graders who have a valid Every Kid in a Park pass. Vouchers for a pass can be obtained at

Some regulations to remember when cutting your tree include:

• Trees may not be cut within 100 feet of roads or within 200 feet of campgrounds, picnic areas, scenic pullouts, administrative sites, timber sale areas or designated Wilderness areas. Distances may be greater for state highways and scenic byways. Contact district offices for details.

• Maximum tree height is 20 feet.

• Maximum tree diameter is 6 inches at the stump.

• Cut the tree to a stump height of 6 inches or less, or below the lowest living branch, whichever is lower. If one living branch is left on the stump, the tree will continue to grow, although it will probably become deformed and encourage disease.
• If boughs are wanted, choose a taller tree than needed (maximum 20 feet) and use the lower branches for boughs. Do not cut boughs from living trees.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland.

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