MCCALL - A year-long mission to find and harvest the perfect Christmas tree came to an end on Wednesday when Chris Niccoli and Jared Schuster cut down an 80-foot Engelmann spruce at the Little Ski Hill, just outside of McCall.
The tree's journey has just begun. It will travel around Idaho for the next two weeks before making the 3,000 mile road trip to Washington, DC where it will be displayed as the official U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree.
Niccoli and Schuster, smokejumpers with the Payette National Forest spent a year pinpointing trees in the forest, looking for ideal candidates. They found the eventual winner standing straight out of the north face of the Little Ski Hill.
With thousands of people looking on - both in person and live on KTVB - Niccoli and Schuster made the first cut using a traditional crosscut saw.
U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree harvested near McCall
"Pretty excited, and nervous, to be honest with you," said Niccoli beforehand. "A little bit nervous."
Plenty of locals were on hand to watch the momentous occasion.
"Somebody told me they were going to cut a tree down," said one observer, sarcastically, when asked what brought him to this spot along Highway 55.
Some kids even got to skip school to see history in the making. One middle school student says she often goes skiing at the Little Ski Hill.
"It's going to be missing a tree next year," she said.
A lot of other locals have made this place their first ski spot.
"Before Brundage this was the place," said Dean Hovdey. He is the husband of former Olympic slalom skier, Patty Boydstun, who grew up skiing The Little Ski Hill.
Hovdey says for this community, for this tree to come from this spot, in this forest, is fitting.
"It's like the perfect story," Hovdey said.
A story that is only beginning it's final chapter.
The tree will make 15 stops around the state before leaving for Washington, DC on Nov. 15.
Once it is set up on the lawn of the Capitol, it will be decorated with thousands of ornaments created by Idahoans. It will be officially lit on Dec. 6.
U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Idaho stops:
- McCall: Saturday, Nov. 5, 5 p.m. – 7 p.m., 1000 2nd St.
- Cascade: Sunday, Nov. 6, 10 a.m. – 11 a.m., Kelly’s Whitewater Park, East Mill St.
- Horseshoe Bend: Sunday, Nov. 6, 1 p.m. – 2 p.m., Horseshoe Bend School District, 398 School Dr.
- Boise: Sunday, Nov. 6, 4 p.m. – 6 p.m., Cabela’s, 8109 W. Franklin Road
- Boise: Monday, Nov. 7, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., Idaho State Capitol, 700 W. Jefferson St.
- Weiser: Tuesday, Nov. 8, 9 a.m. – 11 a.m., Main St.
- Council: Tuesday, Nov. 8 1:30 p.m. – 3 p.m., 202 Michigan Ave.
- New Meadows: Wednesday, Nov. 9, 9 a.m. – 10 a.m., 101 Virginia St.
- Grangeville: Wednesday, Nov. 9, 3 p.m. – 5 p.m., Grangeville Air Center, 111 Airport Road
- Lapwai: Thursday, Nov. 10, 10 a.m. – noon, Nez Perce National Historic Park, 39063 U.S. Highway 95
- Moscow: Thursday, Nov. 10, 2 p.m. – 4 p.m., University of Idaho, 709 S. Deakin St.
- Coeur d’Alene: Friday, Nov. 11, 10 a.m. – noon, Sherman Avenue, between 1st and 2nd Streets
- Salmon: Saturday, Nov. 12, 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m., 204 Main St.
- Idaho Falls: Monday, Nov. 14, 9 a.m. – 11 a.m., Alturas Academy, 3950 S. Yellowstone Hwy.
- Twin Falls: Monday, Nov. 14, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., 4th/5th and Shoshone Street East