Alex Andrews and Chris Grenier are building their dream, just outside SLC.
Just a little over an hour outside Salt Lake, nestled in the Wasatch, is a five-acre swatch of land. High desert brush speckles the lightly sloping landscape. Moose and elk wander the periphery. The air is dry with Utah heat in the summer and rife with concentrated snowfall in the winter. Lately, the sound of skateboard trucks on coping breaks the silence of the wilderness, the product of a fresh skatepark built by Alex Andrews and Chris Grenier that sits aside a modest, two-story cabin called The Freedom Frontier.
Nearly three years ago, Grenier and Andrews merged their individual desires to have a getaway from SLC and purchased the cabin, the land naturally lending itself to both a skatepark and snowboard park. "I had been looking for property up in Northern Utah," remembers Andrews. Grenier was doing the same thing in a nearby zone. "It just hit me like a brick wall," Andrews says. He'd found the perfect spot. "I had looked at it a few times, but I needed a partner on it." The guys went to check the property one more time, and after seeing it together, they immediately called the realtor and began to turn their cabin dreams into concrete reality.
The duo is motivated by mutual and deep-rooted interests when adding on to the grounds--the same things that have fueled their lives thus far. "My dad said, 'You might not want to build the skatepark so close to the house for resale value,'" Grenier laughs. "I was like, 'Dad, I don't think we're doing anything on this house for resale value.' We're doing it for overall happiness and life enjoyment. What makes us happy? Skateboarding. So, we built a skatepark, and that's pretty much as simple as it is."
The cabin itself is modest in amenities: wood fireplace for heat, well for water, solar powered LED lights that emit only 100 watts when all in use, propane stove for indoor cooking, a bedroom each for Grenier and Andrews, plus bunk beds and a pullout for homies that stay over. "It's the perfect size for what we need," acknowledges Andrews. "You could sleep six to eight people comfortably. I've had like sixteen total sleeping in the cabin before. But that's spread out, air mattresses and shit. Normally it's me, Chris and a couple homies, so it's comfy." It is the cabin's simplicity that makes it luxurious--a contrast to the plugged-in status quo. Bring wood in for the stove. Stoke the fire. Make sure everything's running properly. There's no WiFi, no cell service, no communication with the outside world. "No Service, No Problem" is emblazoned on bright orange bumper stickers with the Freedom Frontier logo. It's an ethos that is welcomed when spending time at the cabin. "It's really nice having authentic experiences with no cell phones," says Grenier. "You play cards and interact with people on a personal level without technology distracting you. The place is a getaway. There's no service. Whatever's going on in your life at home, leave it there, and come up and enjoy your time at the cabin."
It's not hard to do. Enjoying your time at The Freedom Frontier, that is. Andrews and Grenier have been steadily transforming their property into the ultimate snowboard clubhouse. There are mellow splitboard routes accessible out the front door, and last winter the pair installed a towrope to service a park filled with jibs. Ozzy Henning, Hans Mindnich, Chris Beresford, and other friends from Salt Lake spent time lapping the park while Grenier's dog, Gus, followed along. The plan is to expand the setup. Grenier wants to focus much of his season riding at the cabin. "This coming winter is going to be my first time not traveling and filming a video part," he explains. "I'm going to spend the whole winter up here, and we're going to build a new snowboard park. I'm going to try to exhaust my creativity and get Alex and all of our friends getting as many tricks as possible up here and try to push ourselves. It's an exciting endeavor for this winter."
In the summer, once the snow has melted and the temps are reaching triple digits in the city, The Freedom Frontier offers a high altitude escape a few degrees cooler than the SLC streets. The plan was always to build a skatepark from the moment Grenier and Andrews looked at the land. This past summer, they spent four months creating a concrete oasis. "I had a vision for the skatepark, and Alex had a vision. He got in the skidsteer and started doing some dirt work, and I realized he had a vision for a gigantic skatepark," remembers Grenier. "I doubted our ability, but Alex is a psycho, and he works really hard. So we were able to mash and get it done. I didn't really know much about concrete in the beginning, and then by the end I felt like I could build any skatepark I've seen."
Every day this summer, aside from a trip to Mount Hood here and there, they toiled over framing, lining up coping, and measuring, rewarded on the days they poured concrete, though that was hard work too. A small army of friends assisted the process, helping to shape the six-foot quarterpipe on one side and the half-bowl on the other. It was a rugged but gratifying. "Chris went from not ever holding a cement tool in his hand when we started, to now being about to build any sort of concrete feature," says Andrews. "We all gained a lot of experience. And I think that's the best part; it's DIY. We didn't want it to be perfect. I like to skate things that you have to figure out. Some of it's mellow, some of it's gnarly, and it seems to be working pretty well."
Andrews, Grenier, and their crew have been skating the park all fall. It's their personal retreat, but both guys are gregarious and welcoming to friends who share the same love of simple living and spending time outdoors. "I like people to come up here because I think that a lot of people don't get to experience the 'no service, no problem' thing," comments Alex. "Literally yesterday, I was up here doing a Burton clinic with a crew, and I was like, 'Hey does anyone know the time?' No one had their phone on them. Not one person. And I was like, 'That's great. I don't need to know the time.' It's cool because I think people really soak it in when they're up here."
The Freedom Frontier is a natural extension of the lives that Grenier and Andrews already lead. Their winters are spent traversing resort trails, backcountry lines, and snowed-in cities and in the summer, they mountain bike, dirtbike, skate, swim--anything outdoors. The cabin is a nucleus from which to do more of what they love, while shutting off a bit from day-to-day distractions. Grenier adds, "When I was a kid, I had a treehouse in my backyard that we built. It was all janky, and we had little BMX bike trails. The cabin is a version of that for adults. It started off as a place that we thought was cool to build stuff and it has almost become therapeutic, going up here and detaching from society a little bit with the lack of technology." Even while embracing the lack of cellular connectivity, Andrews, Grenier, and their buddies are often filming while up here, just because they enjoy it. They've filmed short edits to post on The Freedom Frontier's Instagram. Of course, not when they're at the cabin itself. Through this, the compound has resonated with people--friends, strangers, folks in Utah and much further away. During a time of particular interest in tiny homes and a renaissance of off-the-grid living and outdoor exploration, owning a small piece of the world and transforming it to fit in with your deepest interests is something that tends to spark excitement in others. Such is the case with Chris and Alex's personal cabin project. "We weren't ever like, 'We're going to build this into a huge brand,'" says Grenier. "We started making stuff; people thought it was cool, so then we came up with a name. We're just hoping to maybe inspire people and be like, 'Hey, we did it. You guys can do it, too.'"
When it comes to the future of The Freedom Frontier, their passion continues to prevail. What is down the road for the duo and their rough-around-the-edges compound? "Just never stop building and elaborating," says Chris. "I've noticed I'm the happiest when I'm engulfed in the middle of a project. When it's over, you're satisfied for five minutes and then it's like, 'What's next?'