Phil Smith | |

Mike Basich - in his self built home next to the ski slopes
Safe from the snow – Basich and housemate
Mike Basich was earning $170,000 a year, travelling the world to compete in international snowboarding championships and living in a 4,000 square foot home. Ten years ago, he gave up the luxurious life of a pro-athlete for his own 40-acre ‘private-resort’ that he built himself in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
With no neighbours for miles and an endless playground of pistes, Mike Basich has taken himself off the grid and set up camp right in the middle of the slopes.
Speaking to Make: Basich said that he created his new home, named Area-241, because he wanted to “learn how to produce the things I have taken for granted, like electricity and water coming out of the faucet”. He wanted to get closer to mother earth and over the course of 5 years, he built his own mountain cabin. The cabin is a pocket-sized, 228 square feet, pentagon shaped property built out of granite, pine and Douglas fir from the surrounding area. 80% of the property is granite and it took 2 and half years to complete the rockwork alone and shift around 175 tons of granite. Natural water flows on site and he has a large south-facing window that not only stores heat but also provides stunning views across the peaks. He has also built a 600 foot vertical rise chairlift and a wood-fired hot tub. He has certainly settled into a very unique way of life.
Mike said that he has always been “a self-doer” and creating the cabin fulfilled a “childhood dream”. When asked to provide advice for others inspired by his story, Mike replied, “[don’t] wait for the right time. It’s always going to be hard — that’s the best part about it all in some ways”. Mike faces unique challenges that are alien to the majority of city-dwelling folk. He uses an outdoor toilet, collects his own water, has no internet, no indoor plumbing and his electricity is solar powered. His shower is a stone clad corner of the cabin with a granite seat. Mike will sit and pour water over himself with no shower curtain. Then once the seat has been dried by the sun, the shower becomes a relaxing area.
Mike always felt like something was missing from his life whilst he was living in the city. Talking to Seeker Stories Mike said that, “in a city you always feel like you are in a rat race. And here it feels like you are in sync with what is actually happening”. Mike rises with the sun and sleeps when it sets, he feels like he is no longer racing time. Although his pace of life has slowed, he still is able to carve up and down the slopes on his board. The slopes are effectively his back garden. It took 8 months to build his chairlift and as he was once one of the world’s best snowboarders, he can still keep his hand in whenever he wants. It also allows him to pursue his other passion, photography. Whilst he was pro and subsequently after retirement, Mike made a name for himself as a renowned snowboarding photographer. He now has all of the facilities on his doorstep to continue this line of work.
According to Mike, the very nature of building your own home brings a closer connection to the things you use on a daily basis. Mike said, “It makes me feel so rewarded when I brush my teeth with water I spend so much time getting”. The off-grid life that Mike dreamed of as a child came true and it was all the more satisfying for him due to the fact that it was his inspiration, his design and it was his two hands that built it. He believes that the life he has created for himself is the greatest accomplishment of his life.

Watch Seeker Stories documentary on Mike’s cabin:

Buy our book - OFF THE GRID - a tour of American off-grid places and people written by Nick Rosen, editor of the off-grid.net web site

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