Jumping out of a helicopter hovering 120 feet above a snow peaked mountain isn’t everyone’s idea of fun. For snowboard pro and entrepreneur Mike Basich, it’s just one of his many career highlights.
“When I did that project I promised myself that I wouldn’t put myself in a position to feel pressured if I didn’t feel right about the conditions,” he explained. “I shot the photo myself.”
The amazing self-portrait appeared in Snowboard UK magazine in 2004.
“I set the camera on a tripod and point to whatever hill or cliff I am going to come down,” he said. “With a remote, I can snap pictures up to 800 feet away. The helicopter shot was something that I didn’t know if I got or not because of the distance.”
Basich, who now makes his home on 40 acres near Donner Summit, first made the news in 1990 when as a junior at Sacramento Waldorf School, he participated in the World Cup tour.
He later claimed second place in the halfpipe competition at the world championships.
“I grew up in Sacramento and was a skateboarder,” said Basich, sitting in the small Colfax office where he sells his 241 clothing line and custom snowboards by appointment and his Web site.
Basich says his mother is the one who made him aware of the sport.
“One day my mom went to Go Skate shop,” he said. “When she came back she told me and my older sister, Tina, about this thing they had in the window called a snowboard. The next day my sister and I each rented a board and drove to Soda Springs.
“We hiked up the hill in our moon boots. The icy conditions were horrible,” he continued. “We kept falling down and had snow in our socks. By the time we got to the bottom, we were hooked, and have stuck with it ever since.”
They purchased their first snowboards the next day.
Initially, he didn’t find many who shared his passion for a sport that was viewed as radical and wild.
In 1985 snowboarders were only allowed at Soda Springs and Donner Ski Ranch. Boreal changed their stance toward boarding enthusiasts in 1987.
“You had to be certified to ride on the chair lift with your snowboard,” he said. “They would have you walk up the hill and watch you come down before they would stamp your pass. There were no teachers or instructors to teach you how to turn your board. In the beginning it was just you asking your buddy ‘So, what did you learn today?’”
Now 36, Basich looks back on his 10-year career as a pro rider and competitor with the X-Games.
“It has been stunning to see the new ideas developed in the last three years. Even with the high tech materials,” Basich said, “they are bringing back some of the old designs.”
How a board rides is the most important feature to consider when buying a snowboard.
“Graphics are a huge part of marketing. Kids see a board in a magazine with a cool graphic and that becomes the selling point,” he said. “The market was flooded with boards often compromising quality because of mass production.”
For Basich, who has been involved in design since his first pro-model board came out in 1994, quality is at the top of his list.
Recently, he launched his own line of custom boards. In addition to the design, he is involved in the manufacture and marketing of the boards.
“This project has been a combination of trying to make something that is environmentally friendly and rides great,” he said. “I want the graphic to remain the same until the technology within the board changes.”
Basich starts with a wood core he mills from an 80-foot pine tree that fell on his property. Combined with Tulipwood, he believes the core is a perfect balance of shock absorption and flexibility.
He was recently interviewed for a New York Times story about businesses making quality eco-friendly snowboards.
“It feels full circle,” says the snowboard pro whose boards also include the patented Magna traction technology. “It is something I wanted to do and it is satisfying to ride on something that I know where it came from.
“Snowboarding is truly about freeform style,” he concluded. “However you see the mountain is how you are going to ride it. It is about individual expression. That is the part I am still passionate about.”
For more information on Basich’s clothing line, pro-model snowboards, and photos visit www.241-usa.com or call 346-6043.
1/15/09 – by Marci Seither, Colfax Record correspondent