A Snowboarder’s Hand-Built Cabin of Stone, Glass, and Steal

Reader Contribution by Lloyd Kahn and Shelter Publications
article image

The following post is an excerpt from Tiny Homes, Simple Shelter(Shelter Publications, 2012) by long-time Mother Earth News contributor Lloyd Kahn. In this book are some 150 builders who have taken things into their own hands, creating tiny homes (under 500 sq. ft.) — homes on land, on wheels, on the road, on water, even in the trees. Here is one of these builders, Mike Basich’s, story.

I went up to Mike’s with Evan in August 2010. We got in his honker 4-by-4 truck and with his dog, went up a rutted road, hopping boulders until we got to the house. First, the site is stunning. Second, the craftsmanship is meticulous. It’s an astounding little house. Everywhere you look there are creative delights. Everything is handmade.

In 2009, I go this email from my son, Evan:

Hey Dad,

I was looking for a new snowboard online, and I came across this guy named Mike Basich. He’s a pro snowboarder and a very talented builder — a very creative guy to say the least. What he is doing up there is really gonna blow your mind! You’ve got to check out the house he built in the backcountry near Donner Pass. Really amazing!!! All built by hand using local materials and lots of rocks from the land. You’ll like the hot tub.


I had no idea Evan was interested in building, but I looked Mike up. Holy cow! Mike Basich was a world-class snowboarder, and when Evan told me that Mike had once jumped out of a helicopter (sans parachute) 100 feet above the ground on his snowboard, my attention was got. Here’s Evan’s account of this remarkable guy and his remarkable house.

A heavy snow in the winter of 2011 buried the cabin completely.

Michael Basich: Pro Snowboarder, Master Builder

I came across Mike Basich in September 2009. I was online, trying to find a snowboard handmade in the USA. I’d heard there was a guy who made a snowboard out of a 400-year-old dead tree from his property. Little did I know that this “guy” was none other than Michael Basich — not just a legendary snowboarder, but also a master builder and jack of all trades.

I happened upon a video of Mike after he’d finished building his cold pool and wood-fired hot tub. As soon as I saw the video, I knew he would be in one of the next Shelter books — if not a whole book on just him alone. Mike is one of the most talented builders I’ve ever seen.

You never know what you’re going to get when you pull up to Mike’s — he might be milling freshly cut trees for use in his shop, chopping up a truck and creating some sort of snowmobile-carrying, 4-by-4 hybrid, or he might just be taking runs down his hill with the aid of his homemade tow rope powered by an old engine and rear axle.

Oh, and did I mention he’s the founder/owner of Area 241, which makes some of the highest quality snowboarding gear on the planet?

The pentagonal floor is made from lumber milled on site. At center is a pentagon. On Mike’s birthday, October 29, a beam of light shines through a hole in a 5-pointed star in the door, and falls on the central pentagon.

Mountain Cabin of Stone, Glass, and Steal

Mike has a passion for building that is only equaled by his passion for snowboarding. His cabin is located on 40 acres about three miles in the backcountry near the Donner Pass and during the winter is only accessible by snowmobile, snow cat, or on snow shoes. The first time I went out there, he put me on the front of his snowmobile, stood up behind me, and proceeded to blast through the wilderness at 50 MPH, floating like a snowflake.

The cabin is mainly built out of rocks that Mike picked and carried to the site. The steel beams were bent by Mike’s cousin and welded by Mike. All of the logs were selected and cut by Mike and milled on a portable mill belonging to a friend. I’ve never seen a home with such attention to detail — every door handle, seat, or counter has a story behind it and a look of fine craftsmanship.

 He is regarded as a legend in the snowboard industry, not only for his amazing riding, point-of-view photos, and numerous contributions to the industry, but also for the way he influences people to look at the world and what they can build with their own two hands.

He likes to build things that he uses in his life for sake of wanting to know what it really takes. And with snowboarding being such a big part of his life for reasons of snow, mountains, and movement in the mountains with open space, he needs a place to be creative.

In Mike’s Words

It wasn’t until I was 33 years old that I decided to bring a childhood dream to life, to build my own house with my own two hands.

I came across these beautiful 40 acres on Donner Summit and bought it. It was a huge winter and I lived in a tepee and experienced the land.

I started thinking, what kind of shape will the house have? I realized that where I felt most alive was on a mountain peak, and I started looking at all the photos of me standing in the mountains with my arms stretched out, like I was reaching out to the world.

If I connected the dots of arms, legs, and head, it made a pentagon. I’d been reading the book The Golden Section: Nature’s Greatest Secret by Scott Olsen, about the Golden Section and its elegance and simplicity in nature.

The great thing about taking on a project like this is that things happen naturally after you start building: Where your front door should be. With your arms reaching out, that’s where your windows should be.

The hardest part was in dealing with the weather, mixing concrete in the snow, but it’s what I wanted: to put myself in the place where I got back to the basics of the simple life, living off the grid.                                             

Looking around, I saw a lot of rock — it’s what survived up here. So I built out of rock.

Lloyd Kahn is a sustainable living visionary and publisher of Shelter Publications. He is the author of natural building books, including Home WorkTiny HomesTiny Homes on the MoveShelter II , Builders of the Pacific Coast, and The Septic System Owner’s Manual (All available in the Mother Earth News Store). He lives and builds in Northern California. Follow Lloyd on his blogTwitterand Facebook, and read all of his Mother Earth News posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.