Professional snowboarder Mike Basich has been pushing boundaries on and off the snow for the past 20 years and has come to be known as the DIY guru of the snowboarding community. Long before GoPro was a product and every rider on the mountain had one, Basich was hacking conventional photography equipment to film himself riding without a videographer (now he is one of GoPro‘s most prolific sponsored athletes).
His latest large-scale DIY venture has been building an off-grid cabin deep in the Sierra Nevada mountains, which he’s named Area-241. Located roughly 10 miles outside of Truckee, Calif., Basich’s property is 40 acres of mountain terrain. His cabin is a compact 228-square-feet, pentagon-shaped, and built out of granite, pine, and Douglas fir harvested from the property. Basich gets his electricity from solar panels and his water from snowmelt. Did we mention that he even put in a chairlift with a 600-foot vertical rise and a wood-fired hot tub? The simple life has never seemed so sweet.
Basich will be speaking at Maker Faire Bay Area on Sunday, May 18, sharing the story of how he built his homestead. We chatted with him to find out more.
1. What made you decide to embark on a building adventure as ambitious as Area-241?
I wanted to find a few things with Area-241. For one, putting myself in a place where it made me learn how to produce the things I have taken for granted, like electricity and water coming out of the faucet. These are things that sound so easy, but it has been quite the journey starting this from the ground up and it has changed the way I do things.
It has really brought me closer to the movements of the Earth. It’s amazing the difference of energy used by just getting up with the sun and going to bed with it. Simple links like this have brought great connections for me. Another has me wanting to link my private passions in life with my career in snowboarding and to live in it rather than trying to chase it at ski areas. I feel so strongly about living life in the mountains, I wanted to really give it a shot.
2. How did you learn the skills to make your own off-grid home and chairlift?
I’ve learned almost everything I know by doing it, which has made life exciting and hard. But with every challenge there has always been a good lesson. I like letting materials help shape what you’re building. And to really stand back and understand what you really need to have happen, in whatever you’re building. My lift is a simple, one-person chairlift that does only what it needs: lift you upward with the least amount of force.
3. Describe the property at Area-241. How accessible is it?
It’s 3 miles off a plowed road in the winter, so I use a sled, snowcat, or hike sometimes. It’s always exciting and hard during big storms. There’s a dirt road in the summer. A little hard at the last 1,000 feet. So sometimes I’ll bring stuff up on my snowcat because it’s a smoother road when there is snow.
4. What was the most difficult part of building your own ski lift?
80% of my property is granite rock. So building roads to each tower was hard. I did it all with a small tractor. Lifting up the towers was wild. Did a lot of ropes up on trees and my tractor on the rocks hoisting stuff up. I did this mostly in the summer, so it was hard to mix cement up at higher areas because I would have to bring water to mix it. Everything you think you need, you have to bring up a wild road that’s just wide enough to get through.
5. Have you always been a maker? How did you first get into making things with your hands?
My parents always had things around to do or fix. Always doing stuff different on the approach. So I become a self doer, you could say.
6. What inspires you to make instead of buy?
I like having a closer connection to the things I use in life. It makes me feel so rewarded when I brush my teeth with water I spend so much time getting.
7. What was the most important thing you learned in the process of building Area-241?
How much I love the snow, and how simple life can be with so much joy.
8. What’s your next project?
I built a tiny home on a trailer this year with my girlfriend. It has been another project showing myself how much I like small little places with simpleness.
9. What advice do you have for others who are inspired by what you’ve done at Area-241?
To not wait for the right time. It’s always going to be hard — that’s the best part about it all in some ways. To focus on what you are willing to give up if needed to make it happen, like using an outdoor toilet versus something you’re use to, etc. The unique experiences are the ones that reward us and stick with us as gifts in life.
Thanks for the inspiration, Mike! Looking forward to seeing you at Maker Faire.
Here are another few shots of Area-241 (couldn’t resist):
The BBC Network shot a great video of Mike and Area-241:
Basich is a team rider for Flow, who made this fun video called “Chairlift Chronicles” about his adventures putting in his chairlift:
Basich having fun shooting with Christoph Thoresen and his quadcopter: