Photos: Shaun Daley
Austin is parked in the Mount Bachelor lot for the winter.
It’s been about a decade since Austin Smith clinched the ender in We’re People Too, earning himself Rookie of the Year and Video Part of Year in the same season. Save for the time he’s spent on the bench dealing with knee injuries, his winters since have been consumed by travel and the clerical aspect of his profession—the amount of time spent riding a snowboard sometimes taking a back seat to the effort of getting there and bailing out an overflowing inbox.
This year, Austin is doing it different, and the catalyst for this divergent approach is an old fire truck. We spent an afternoon with Austin, relaxing in his ’53 GMC turned tiny home after cruising the mountain that is now his literal backyard.
It’s a 1953 GMC fire truck. I don’t know what the model would be. Back then I think it was just like ‘truck’. GMC Truck. It’s a gasoline straight-line 6-cylinder. We took off the fire truck portion and added a shitload of weight to it, so it’s gutless. It tops out at about 30 miles per hour. It still gets from point A to point B.
The purpose was to stay at home. I’ve been traveling so much for the last ten years; I just wanted a reason or excuse to snowboard here at Mount Bachelor and snowboard every day like when I was 17. When I was 17 I’d take the bus up to the mountain. First bus up, last bus down—just ride from open to close every single day, whether it was raining or if it was good. But I’ve become such a powder snob and gotten busy with other stuff, I just wasn’t snowboarding as much as I used to or as much as I’d like to. So this has been helping facilitate me snowboarding every day. It’s working very well. I’ve just been going open to close. Normally I’d come up for a couple hours then head back to town for lunch and deal with emails and such.
But living up here I’ve got nowhere to go. I’ve got nothing to do, so I just keep lapping and finding little stuff. You’re always happy the longer you stay snowboarding. I don’t have a computer up here. I don’t have much really, but I have everything I need. If you go to my house in Bend, my garage looks like a bomb went off. There’s just so much shit, so many unfinished projects, and it’s overwhelming. This was an escape from all of it. This is all that I need. I got my Äsmo; I got my snowboard. I got boots, food, water.
Probably ten years ago, a dude in Michigan started the project. He put this big box on the back of a fire truck, put in the windows, put some stuff on the outside, and lost motivation as the project was like a quarter of the way done. So he was selling it as-is on eBay. My brother called me one night and was like, “Hey man, I used some money of yours and bought this firetruck on eBay.” And he sent me the link. I was like, “Ok, I don’t want a fire truck. Why’d you do this?” He was like, “I’m gonna fix it up; It’s gonna be epic.” He flew out to Michigan and picked it up. Then he got it to my parents house in Oregon, and it sat there for the last five years and never got touched.
Coming into this winter, I was actually looking at buying a different fire truck. It was a lot smaller than this. I was super psyched on it. Then I realized, “Man, I already have one fire truck. I need to finish that project before I get onto another one.” So I didn’t get that fire truck and finished this one. I did all the inside stuff: lighting, plumbing, and this little stove. And now it’s here. A bunch of people wanted to finish it and never did, and I kind of got it to where it’s at now. I drove it up here on New Year’s Eve at like 10 pm, going between 25 and 33 miles per hour. It misfires all the time, so it would kind of sputter out. I didn’t think it was actually gonna make it up here. I was so happy the first few days. I couldn’t believe I finished by New Years. We got it up here right before the ten-day storm when it snowed a foot every single day. Every night after riding powder I’d be in here with the stove ripping, grinning ear to ear.
I knew I was going to like living in a small space, but I didn’t know I was gonna like it this much. I feel more at home here than anywhere else I’ve ever lived, which is pretty sweet. I’m super messy and unorganized, so this is a helpful life process to become more organized. Everything in here has its place. I also never really cooked. I would eat out three times a day with Curtis [Ciszek]. Now I might not go to a restaurant for a month, so I know exactly what I’m eating. I’ve been making steaks and some breakfast scramble tacos that are pretty good. I’ve been getting pretty good at tea. I didn’t really seal the windows up too well, so sometimes I wake up with little snow drifts inside and some nice warm tea goes a long way. It sleeps four. I’ve slept three so far. But you could probably fit ten people in here just hanging out.
I’ve got a Yeti cooler that works as my refrigerator. My wood stove for keeps me warm, and that’s where I cooking my food. I have a big insulated water jug, so my water doesn’t freeze. The solar panels that power all my lights are pretty crucial, and they work insanely well, even when it’s snowing and cloudy with minimal sunshine. Also Bernie is pretty critical—my expedition suit from The North Face. There’s a waxing station outside. I’ve got a boot rack on the ceiling above the stove, made from old bindings. It’s crucial for keeping my boots warm. I also have straps on the ceiling for my Äsmo. And I’ve got some artwork—my Jobe artwork. That’s from a 12-year-old High Cascade camper. I’ve seen him every summer for the last four years, and he’s a pretty cool kid. The bed is custom-sized. It’s a little smaller than a queen.
I’m still kind of in shock that it made it out of my driveway. I’m just relishing in the fact that it made it here. But the next goal would maybe be the beach this summer or up at Mount Hood for snowboarding this summer. It would be pretty sweet to have my own space there.