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Tiny Cabin, Giant View
A snowboarder’s cabin in the Sierras has no bedroom, no bathroom— but a hot tub and a (nearly completed) ski lift
A snowboarder’s cabin in the Sierras has no bedroom, no bathroom-but a hot tub and a (nearly completed) ski lift. WSJ’s Conor Dougherty joins Lunch Break with a look at pro snowboarder Mike Basich’s mountain retreat. Photo: Jason Henry for The Wall Street Journal.
Soda Springs, Calif.
Just about anyone who has ever lived in an over-cluttered home has at some point declared that one day they’ll ditch it all and live simply. Mike Basich did it.
Mr. Basich, a 40-year-old pro snowboarder, has spent the past several years building his dream home near Lake Tahoe. About 10 miles outside Truckee, Calif., the house sits 3 miles beyond a quiet road that has a few mailboxes but not much else. In the winter, it can only be accessed by a snowmobile, snowcat or other kind of tracked vehicle.
Mr. Basich, a professional snowboarder, built the home and most of its furnishings.
Mr. Basich’s property is 40 acres, crisscrossed with creeks and boasting views of the Sierra Nevada, but the house itself is smaller than the average cramped studio apartment. It’s 228 square feet, doesn’t have laundry and the bathroom is outside.
“I’ve eliminated a lot of stuff by choosing to have a small place and a big yard,” says Mr. Basich, who has scraggly brown hair and usually needs a shave. The house is about 25% glass and lacks curtains, so he gets up with the sun and goes to sleep with the stars. In between, his typical activities include snowboarding on an adjacent hill or hiking with his Siberian husky, Summit.
The electricity comes from a solar panel on his porch. The running water comes from snowmelt. All of the heat—for warmth, for the soapstone oven, for the hot tub—is generated by wood fires.
Room and Snowboard
Inside the house, there aren’t any rooms or closets. The inside and outside walls are made of granite stones that form the house’s shell, and the sleeping area is a small loft that sits only a few feet below the ceiling. A range of household items, from baked beans to bear spray, are in open view.
His TV is rarely on and doesn’t get reception or cable. On a recent evening, the lone bookshelf had a small collection of snowboard magazines along with a book titled “Tiny Homes.” Mr. Basich’s indulgences include a hot tub on the porch along with a ski lift that, when finished, will rise 600 feet up a nearby hill.Building is another activity that takes up a good deal of Mr. Basich’s time. Over the past decade, he says, he bought and sold a half-dozen rental and investment properties, all of which he extensively renovated. He designed the pentagon-shaped house himself, and has lived on the property—in a tent, under tarps—through various stages of completion. He and friends collected the granite from the surrounding property. He milled all the wood himself, most of it from a combination of pine and Douglas-fir trees on his land.
The copper faucet draws water from a storage tank.
From the deer-antler doorknobs to the oak coffee table inlaid with petrified mammoth bone, nearly everything in the house comes with a story about Mr. Basich’s labors. Asked if there was anything in the house he didn’t build, Mr. Basich responded deadpan, “My computer.”
Mr. Basich grew up in Fair Oaks, Calif., near Sacramento, and became a professional snowboarder in 1991. He competed until 2000 but quit to focus on backcountry riding. Today, sponsors like Flow Snowboards and GoPro pay him to travel the world taking self-portraits of his snowboarding that they use to promote their products.
His house and land, which he calls “Area 241,” after a small clothing company he owns, are a part of that image. He has an Area 241 iPhone application with regular updates of his doings. Also, for $2,500 a day, he rents out the property for private parties and commercial shoots (Mountain Dew was a recent client). He says the fees cover his mortgage and then some.
Back when he was a contest professional, Mr. Basich bought a five-bedroom home on a Salt Lake City cul-de-sac. Over time, he started to hate the abundance of space, along with the time and money it took to maintain it. In 2002, after his move to backcountry snowboarding, he sold it to live in his van.
The cabin is powered by a solar panel.
In 2004, a real-estate-agent friend tipped off Mr. Basich to 40 undeveloped acres that were up for sale. He fell in love right away and paid $225,000 for the land and has since put about $20,000—plus five years of labor—into building the house. Bret Churchman, an associate broker with Coldwell Banker in Truckee, says similar lots are on the market for between $500,000 and $1 million, depending on how much infrastructure they have and whether or not they can be divided into smaller parcels.
Mr. Basich, who lives alone, travels about half the year and maintains a small apartment in Colfax, about 40 minutes away. He notes that while it might seem limiting to live in a small house with few appliances, the lack of choice is freeing. This past Christmas Eve, Mr. Basich and his girlfriend made dinner by cooking duck, potatoes, turnips, butter, spices and wine in a pot over the fire.
One of Mr. Basich’s complaints is that people don’t always respect his privacy. He says a friend recently told him that he and some buddies went to the house and had beers on the porch. The friend said it was too bad Mr. Basich wasn’t home.
Write to Conor Dougherty at firstname.lastname@example.org
ALL PICS BY Jason Henry for The Wall Street Journal
READ THE FULL STORY HERE:
Leaving at 5am is a bitter sweet, no sleep but the final outcome is worth it…
The Next day we made the trek up to Lake Tahoe via Donner Summit & stopped by Mike Basich’s Area-241 to see the work in progress on his chairlift. Mike owns 40 acres on the Pass and has already constructed his own house, tow-rope and now his personal chairlift. “Each chair will be pieces of art” says Mike, for instance one chair will be a Monkey hanging off the cable and you will sit in it’s hand. He also plans on having art work all over the runs, paintings hanging from trees, a 24 ft quarter pipe, 40 ft table top jump & all sorts of Natural Features like Log slides and stuff.
Area-241 Lake Tahoe, California. September 2012:
Mike Basich has reported a few flakes here and there nothing much but the progress on the chairlift at his 40 acre ranch on Donner Summit is going pretty good. A few glitches here and there but nothing that’s going to stop them. Concrete has been poured, towers have been put in and the job is getting done. Stay tuned about the progress and a chance to be there for opening day…
Flow snowboarding and Black Bear energy is bringing a Area-241 dream to reality this summer, Mike Basich is set out to built one of the most unique chairlifts anyone has ever seen. Taking the DIY experience into a new area for Mike, he’s excited to carry across his passion for riding, art, board designs and photography into one place to give a experience like no other.
” This project has already brought so many great people together that are dreamers. It’s going to take on a shape and experience of its own.” – Mike Basich
Area-241 is a private place. But keep a eye out there at Flow.com for a chance to win a invite to opening day of the lifter experience.
Mike Basich teams with Black Sun productions to launch FREE area-241 iPHONE , iPAD and iPOD TOUCH APP
App Features a Unique Presentation with Innovative Content
San Anselmo, CA – (April 13, 2012) – Mike Basich has partnered with Black Sun Productions to launch a new free iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch app for Area-241 that allows users to experience the world of legendary big mountain snowboarder and Do-It-Yourself master Mike Basich at his Area-241 and on the road. With over 20 years of snowboarding experience under his belt Mike has taken every opportunity to explore and reinvent what it means to live “off the grid”. His passion has lead him on a journey of a lifetime. This app brings you all the past and current Area-241 events, as well as photos, videos clips and stories of Mike’s Life.
“I am super stoked to see Area-241 come to life in a Mobile app” said Mike Basich, “I spend the majority of my screen time on my iPhone now-a-days and I am stoked to be able to showcase my latest projects and adventures as well as share my snowboard history and personal archives in this cool app.”
The Area-241 app features a What’s New section that highlights videos and pictures of Mike’s recent trips and events; videos of his numerous D.I.Y projects; a gallery of Mike’s famous Self Portraits, access to 241 Product and in Mike’s Zones you can see videos and pictures of Mike’s favorite resort, backcountry, snowmobile and Heli locations. The app also features video of Mike’s famous 120 feet Heli Drop in Alaska and the full version of “Open Space – the Untold Stories of Mike Basich” the award winning documentary of his career.
“Our goal was to build an app for Area-241 that would reflect Mike’s unique artistic style and vision. We additionally wanted to showcase his talent and the many contributions he has made to the snowboard community over the past 20 years” added Lisa Hudson, President of Black Sun Productions, “we hope you enjoy it”
The Area-241 app was developed by Black Sun Productions and will be updated regularly by Mike. The app is available on iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.
To download the free Area-241 app click on this link
STORY THANKS TO… TWS