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Big Dreams, Tiny House

Above Photo: Athlete Neil Provo

A personal little ski lodge on wheels that you can park on mountain passes with skiing and skinning right out your backdoor, a warm fireplace to be stoked as soon as you finish your last turns, and cold beverages stored in your snow-bank refrigerator. If you’re intrigued by any of the above, then you might want a tiny house. While I can’t tell you how to build one (I don’t know anything about tiny-house plans or construction), I can tell you that you’ll figure it out. You’ll make it happen. That’s exactly what we did.

sketchTwo years ago, Outdoor Research skier and Mt. Baker local Zack Giffin and I were coming back from a skiing suffer-fest in South America, the kind that keeps you coming back for more because your masochistic ways only love the adventure if it chews you up and spits you out. We were fueled by adversity overcome. We sat, tossing ideas back and forth, ready for another North American winter. Zack had lived in a van with a wood stove for years in the Mt. Baker parking lot. We wanted to get back to that kind of living; the life that cuts even necessities out of the equation. The kind where you live at the base of the mountain.

Photo: Athlete Molly Baker

Thank goodness for Hans, a friend of Zack’s parents out on tiny, lovely little Lummi Island, who introduced us to tiny houses. Hans had just found a website, Tumbleweed Tiny Homes. His enthusiasm for these small abodes, which he shared with us, changed the following two years of our lives. Hans and Tumbleweed were the missing pieces of the chain connecting living in your van in the parking lot to something the same, but different. After he showed us the homes, we couldn’t let the idea go.

Being skiers, we were wealthy in ideas but poor in finances. Even the $25,000 to build one of these simple structures was a dream that didn’t seem likely to materialize. So, we asked for help. Outdoor Research, being a genuine wild-journey-loving group, adored the idea and the tiny house became the Outdoor Research Tiny House. In that collaboration, Tiny became real, no longer just the idea of two skiers with imaginations deeper than their pockets.

insidefirePhoto: Athlete Neil Provo

With just two months to build before winter, Zack set off to Boulder to his carpentry home, the place he’d worked to fuel ski dreams since he graduated high school. I’ve never seen someone put in those kinds of hours, but with Zack’s diligence and fourteen-hour days, the tiny house rolled onto Boulder’s snow-covered streets in the beginning of December 2011. Just like that, we were tiny house people.

During our two years in the house, lots of others have become tiny house people. And the walls of our house have seen many stoked faces, from athletes Neil and Ian Provo of Utah, to our lifelong friend Santiago Guzman from Bariloche, Argentina, to groups of Canadians from Whistler and Revelstoke. It has endured breakdowns, near break-ups, and life-altering ski days. The whole world of skiing has been invited into the house, its door open to any travelers going into the mountains looking to find a home.

Out with FriendsPhoto: Athlete Neil Provo

In two years in the house, we’ve jumped around the West, then bounced back and forth between South America, New Zealand, California, and Washington in the summers. All of our “things” are packed untidily in Zack’s van, which sits lifeless in a grassy field on Lummi Island. Until a recent knee surgery, I hadn’t stayed in any place longer than three weeks for an entire two years. I can officially call myself a gypsy. A tiny house gypsy.

So, like I said, I can’t give you specifics on what building a tiny house requires. The specs, the plans, the rules … I don’t know if there are any. But if travel, new friends, and mountains in your backyard spark your fire, then the details of building will follow. Dreams have a simple way of making themselves happen, however large or tiny.

SkiingPhoto: Athlete Molly Baker

Watch Livin’ Tiny: A Quest for Powder