A conversation between Robin Van Gyn and Hana about Mt. Baker, finding fulfillment, Natural Selection, and also, speed suits.
I clearly remember the moment back in 2007, driving down to Salt Lake to meet up and film with Hana Beaman for the first time. I was a totally nervous wreck, fumbling and sweating profusely because she had been such a hero of mine for so long. I had a poster of Hana on my bedroom wall when I first moved to Whistler at 17 and she was it: the woman who was going the biggest at the top of the game. I couldn’t believe I was going to film with her. Since then, we’ve had some of the best years being total fucking idiots out there, and all the while she has been a mentor by forcing gigantic jumps on me, picking me up out of bomb holes, and making sledding look as easy as curling at the Olympics. Whether Hana knows it or not, her impact hasn’t been just on me, but also on so many other women who she has brought along with her for the ride. Today, she continues to bring others with her and elevate the game over and over, reinventing herself and solidifying her icon status in snowboarding. If there is one thing that is undeniably clear, it’s that Hana is in it, a snowboarder for life. She uses trial and error as a means to fall back in and keep charging. Already with a lifetime of podiums and video parts to her name, she is still holding strong, so don’t expect her to go anywhere anytime soon. – Robin Van Gyn
Editor’s note: This interview originally appeared in issue 18.2 of Snowboard Magazine in December 2021. Since then, Hana added to her accolades by winning the Alaska stop of Natural Selection in March 2022!
We’re doing the interview the day its due.
That sums us up in a nutshell.
That’s what you get when you ask us to do stuff. We do it the final moment, ha.
That’s when we do things best.
Some of these moments are going to be quite awkward, meaning I will be talking off a page because I wrote down my questions.
Good, I like that. You’re organized.
So, first I want to know what’s currently going on in that life of yours?
Oh boy. A lot of everything. So, after wrapping up winter, I got back into doing some real estate. Been handling a few transactions with clients over the summer but keeping it mellow. I’ve also been doing some fire shifts when I can. I’ve been really enjoying that. Then just trying to find a little more time to get outside, go hiking, go down to Mexico and go surfing—just trying to create a little more space to breathe, have fun, and be creative in other ways.
So, what you’re saying is you’re basically doing it all right now.
Yeah, I’m juggling. Ha.
That kind of relates to when I think about you as a snowboarder. In the era when you grew up in snowboarding, the late 90s, you kind of had to do it all. It wasn’t just filming in the backcountry or just competing or just this or just that. Tell me a little about how it was when you first started snowboarding.
When I started snowboarding, I just tried everything. You rode the halfpipe, you hit the jumps, you rode the rails— you had very few and far between opportunities to ride any fresh powder down at Big Bear. A lot of people were in the halfpipe back then, as they are now, but at that time, you were a halfpipe rider and you were a jump and rail rider. It felt like it was just generally classified as freestyle. Sometimes you were even a GS rider, ha.
You were a speed racer?
Well, I mean not by preference, but in the USASA contests, that was part of it. We all did GS and slalom.
I did not know this about you.
I did not wear a speed suit snowboarding, ever. I had to previously when I was ski racing, and I was not going back there.
I was just about to say, tell me you own a speed suit, ha.
I did for ski racing, for sure. I was like the budget ski racer. I didn’t get the new, coolest stuff. We got skis that were on sale that we could afford or whatever the cheapest speed suit was. But it was still an awesome experience, I learned a lot! My parents were great like that. We didn’t have a ton of money, but they made it happen.
I could see you repurposing a speed suit into a Halloween costume or everyday Hana-wear. You’re kind of the queen of the outfits.
I wish I still had it. I would be a ski racer for Halloween, for sure. A zombie ski racer.
So, starting out having to do it all, and now we’re in a place in snowboarding where you pretty much have to pick one thing and focus on that. Can you speak to that evolution?
Yeah. For me, it’s been over twenty years being a part of the snowboard world evolving. From where I grew up in Big Bear and the stuff that I was able to ride, I obviously was a park rat, hitting whatever, trying different things, riding a little halfpipe. We snowboard what we have access to and I had access to a lot of cool things in snowboarding. Once you got picked up as a sponsored rider and started doing the contests—that’s what we had to do back then—it was like, Okay, I’m doing contests. I’m going to do slopestyle, I’m going to do the quarterpipe, I’m going do the rail jam. I’m going to do these things because I’m here and there are all these opportunities. Maybe you’ll get a little notoriety; you’re just building your career, so you’re trying to do it all. And it was all fun, you know? I might not have been the best at rails or halfpipe or whatever, but it was still fun. It was still riding with your friends. And then as time goes on, you just have less time. There’s all this stuff to do and you have to be a little more selective with What should I do? What am I good at? I don’t want to get hurt, so I’m not going to do things that I’m maybe not as good at when I can do a quarterpipe or a big air, succeed, win some money, and sponsors are happy. So, you’re naturally steered in that direction. I think it served me really well to be able to ride everything. I think that was a special time where you kind of had to do a little bit of everything to be a well-rounded snowboarder. And it’s changed for sure. When did that change probably? 2009-ish?
Yeah, totally. Later 2000s.
You could no longer do it all. Or do it all well, that is. That’s where people started focusing more on halfpipe or slopestyle or rails. I chose backcountry. You had to put in the time and specialize more to stand out. I couldn’t afford to be hurt from a rail trip or try to keep up with the contest riders. We were seeing big parks, bigger tricks, higher consequences. There’s always a time and energy cost, and it’s expensive to chase snowboarding around. Powder and backcountry were what made me happy and where I wanted to be, so I spent my time and energy there. Not many people can afford a snowmobile, have a superpipe in their backyard, and travel the world—or even just afford to get broke off for that matter. You have to put your intention in to what you want to be good at. I’m just happy I found backcountry when I did, and it’s worked out well for me in the long run.
I WISH I STILL HAD THE SPEEDSUIT. I WOULD BE A SKI RACER FOR HALLOWEEN, FOR SURE. A ZOMBIE SKI RACER.
There was a point when you had been in the contest world and made a name for yourself and you were living in Salt Lake—that’s when I met you. And then you made the transition into filming and focusing on the backcountry, and you made this life move to the Pacific Northwest at the same time. Why did you decide to move to Bellingham and the Mt. Baker area?
I think when I was really introduced to backcountry— it was back in like 2003, going out to Jackson and getting to ride a snowmobile—that had a really big impact on me because it was unlike anything I had ever done before. I was immediately hooked. I bought my first snowmobile on a road trip with the Vans guys in Idaho. I was like “Fuck it! I’m buying one!” and just dove in. I knew I wanted to do this, but I was still in the throes of contests and I was still doing really well in them. I wanted to pursue filming, but I also felt like I couldn’t stop competing. I was making good money and all my sponsors wanted me to keep doing it. And then at some point around 2008, I just decided, I’m going to film. I had won Rider of the Year in 2008 and that proved to me that I could focus on filming. I think that was a perfect moment to get out of contests, because that’s right when all the girls started doing multiple sevens and all these tricks that I wasn’t necessarily going to be able to do in that situation. I have one back seven that definitely won me some stuff and I had an inconsistent front seven, but I wasn’t keeping up with the contest girls. In Salt Lake, I could do contests, I could practice park, and then I could like get my feet wet in the backcountry and start to get really comfortable. As the Misschief and Runway crews in Salt Lake were kind of dissolving, the girls going different ways, getting married, picking up different professions, stuff like that, I was finding myself up in Whistler a lot more with you girls, wanting to film and ride bigger mountains. So I thought, What am I doing? I don’t need to live in Salt Lake. Salt Lake was never really home; it was a stop along the way, so it just made sense for me to relocate to Bellingham. I knew a bunch of people there in the snowboard community and I’d be closer to Whistler, so it’d be easy to come up and film with you guys. I think that was one of the best decisions I ever made. I was fairly clueless about Baker when I moved here in 2010-11, but getting that access to Whistler backcountry and to ride with you girls, and getting to ride Baker—that was all pretty pivotal in my life and career. I just wanted to go bigger, ride more powder, and go more into the mountains. Really, it was just an evolution of wanting to ride more pow.
But I think being able to ride halfpipe, rails, and all that stuff has only made me more versatile and gives me my style in the backcountry. From what I was brought up snowboarding to what I ride now, it kind of blows my mind. I step back and I’m like, I was like a slush rail rider and now…ha.
I remember that era. I actually had posters of you on my wall at some rail jam, it was a Vans Triple Crown or something.
Yeah, ha, don’t do posters much anymore, do we?
I’m remodeling my bathroom, so I might just do the poster thing again, you know?
Yeah, you should use them all as a wallpaper.
So, you land in Baker and at that time, there weren’t a ton of pro women who were riding there—it was really just Barrett Christy. Tell me a little about the scene at Baker and how you got involved with it.
I had been to Baker once before I moved here. It was back in like 2002? Dave Sypniewski, with Boost Mobile at the time, flew me up for the Banked Slalom to hang out with everyone, and I just thought, I don’t see the big fucking deal. It’s foggy and I can’t see. The snow is heavy and there’s this crazy terrain, but there are only slow chairs and I had no idea where I was fucking going. I had no business being there at the time, ha. I just remember thinking, What is the big deal about this place? Then when I started hanging out in Bellingham more, I really liked it. Timing is everything, you know? When I moved there, the first year I was riding Baker I was just like, Okay, I see now. I could see a little bit of the potential. Pat McCarthy, Lando, and my boyfriend at the time, Gary, took me around and helped me to get familiar with the place and I understood, Oh yeah, this is cool. There are nooks and crannies here and hiking there, and tons of things like that. We were filming for PS that year. It was 2011. I was just kind of like “What do I do? What should I hit?” And the guys were like, “Come over here. This thing. Do this.” We really didn’t film that much at Baker, but we filmed the road gap that year. It was funny because it was my first year living here and riding Baker, and I was like, “Road gap. Let’s do it!” Like it made sense, ha. But I think we were so heavy into jumps that I felt really confident hitting it. It didn’t really matter what jump it was, I would have hit it.
And then you became the first female rider to do a seven off the road gap. I feel like that moment really solidified you as being a leader in the women’s scene at Baker. And now we’ve seen it grow so much, with Zoë Vernon, Mary Rand, Jacqui Shaffer, and Shawna Paoli, and I really feel that you had a very big impact on the women’s scene and its growth there. I’m interested to hear what your perspective is on that and how you see that scene evolving.
That’s very nice of you to say that, because even though I moved here to ride Baker, as you know, it’s not like I really get to sink my teeth in and ride there all season. I’m on the road a lot of the time, so it’s taken me a couple years to even feel comfortable knowing my way around Baker. Earlier on, I would see girls like Maria Debari and Zoë riding around and I would be like, “Hey, let’s go take some laps?” and they would just blow me away, riding so fast and powerfully down the runs. I would be like, Oh shit, I lost them, ha. I was introduced to the local scene of women here who just shred. They don’t snowboard to film or be seen, they shred to shred. And that was pretty cool because we’re on the mountain trying to film, going slow, and doing all this ridiculous shit, and watching those women, I was like, Oh, this is real. It’s hard to film and really capture Baker. I haven’t filmed much there because, for me, it’s become a place where I can go and just get strong, know where I’m going, and it’s pure fun. There are jumps we can go hit and stuff, but it’s not like I’m going out and filming Baker. It’s become a place where it’s like, I have a day off, I’m going to ride pow with my friends. I think that is one of the things that really makes me love living here. I’m not “working,” I’m playing—which makes me work better everywhere else. And that’s kind of the essence of Baker. It’s not necessarily to put on a display and show off, it’s for the people that really want to ride.
So that’s why it’s cool to me, but It would be hard for me to live up there. Ha. You have to be dedicated to live in Glacier because you’re not really doing much else in the winter—you’re up there and you’re just snowboarding. And that’s hardcore. That’s why Mt. Baker Hardcore is so hardcore. You are just in the fricking bubble of shred, ha.
“THAT’S KIND OF THE ESSENCE OF BAKER. IT’S NOT NECESSARILY TO PUT ON A DISPLAY AND SHOW OFF, IT’S FOR THE PEOPLE THAT REALLY WANT TO RIDE.“
There’s something really great about that. I find as snowboarding has evolved and we’re having to do more and produce more and content, content, content, it’s really nice to just be in the snowboarding bubble and go shredding and remember that’s really the heart of it. I think that’s why Baker is so special.
Yeah, well that’s the thing. There’s the highest ratio of shredders at that mountain, but you would never know—or not never, but you just wouldn’t know it from content out in the world. It doesn’t translate really great to film, but if you go to Baker and ride with those people, you will just be like woah! Every girl at that mountain is a shredder. It’s more of a real world scene, blue collar community, and I think people know and respect that. It’s a different vibe and I like that. I like being a recluse here and just shredding, and then I like going away and it’s like “Okay, I’m checking in at work at Whistler” or wherever with the snowmobiles and the filmers and all of that.
Totally. Let’s talk about when you say “work,” because I know that you’ve been a snowboarder for a long time, but I think what people don’t know is that you’re also very multi-faceted. At some point, I don’t know when it was, I could feel you pulling back from being fully immersed—like everything in life revolves around snowboarding—and starting to explore other things. I think this really speaks to how when we’re younger, we’re so obsessed with snowboarding, and then as we mature, we learn how to mature in snowboarding, too. I’ve seen you do all these things outside of riding. What really drove you to get your real estate license and then also get into firefighting? What do those things give you beyond snowboarding?
I feel I’ve always had a pretty good grasp of life outside of snowboarding. Even though I was obsessed with it for many years, I always had this idea that it could disappear at any moment, you know? You never know how long you’ll get to do this. Even before I got my real estate license and started doing that the last few years, I’ve always thought about what I want to do after snowboarding. I’ve always been conscious of that. I see so many people get hurt snowboarding or the gravy train stops, and they have a really hard time with it. I just didn’t want to be that person. So I’m always like, I could be a park ranger, maybe I could do interior design, I could bartend. I’ve always been playing around with those thoughts and for some miraculous reason, I haven’t had do that for about twenty years—and I feel extremely fortunate for having sponsors who have had my back. But I still have that feeling that at some point, it could all just end, like with this pandemic! Who knew what was going to happen? I think around 2012 or 2013, something clicked that I felt like, I just don’t know if I am going to be appreciated in snowboarding. I’ve seen legends, specifically females, that are just gone; they fade out or people are just over them and it’s onto the next new rider—new hype. And I just felt like, ugh, no matter how good you are or how secure you feel, there’s not a loyalty that can be relied upon with snowboarding. So I kind of checked myself a little bit and decided to really make sure I could be okay outside of that. I got my real estate license in 2018 and doing that has been validating for me. It makes me appreciate that I get to go snowboarding, because there was a moment when I started getting a little salty and was not enjoying it as much. I needed a reminder that a whole other world is out there—you could be working any job and be not stoked, ha. So, it helped me to really appreciate what I have and to try and savor that and make the best of it while I have it. Overall, it was a combination of feeling like at any moment snowboarding professionally could stop, and also realizing what I have with snowboarding and just really loving it, but not having it be my entire life. I mean, I still love snowboarding, but I can’t obsess about it all the time.
It’s also good to try new things.
Yeah. With firefighting, I don’t feel like “I’m a firefighter and I’m a badass.” I feel so new, like a little tadpole, but it gives me the same feeling of snowboarding, though less self-serving, ha. So it’s cool to have that in my life. It’s still new and thrilling, and every time you go out on a call, it’s like, Oh! What’s it going to be?! I just feel like I’m so new, but there’s so much familiarity that it’s something that I think I could really enjoy once snowboarding is over. But I don’t want to jump the gun, because I also feel like in another year I might be like, Nah, fuck it. That wasn’t what I wanted to do, ha.
Totally. I thought, “Yeah, maybe I want to be a filmmaker!” And now, I’m like, “Oh no.” Ha.
Yeah! Trial and error, right? That’s how you learn. That’s how I learned how to snowboard—just chuck myself off of things until I figure it out. Ok, yeah that’s fun. I can do that. Ha.
It’s a bit like that with real estate, too, right? You tried it and it’s not like it was an error, but you were like, Oh shit, this is a lot of computers and paperwork.
Real estate is like my halfpipe. I can do it, and sometimes I get something accomplished, but ehh, I don’t know if it’s my thing.
That’s a really good quote, “Real estate is my halfpipe.”
Ha, I’m not going to get much real estate business after this, which is fine. It’s like, I would prefer to be riding powder, but you know, I can ride pipe. I enjoy it. I’m not going to win awards for it, but it’s all right.
You could always ride the minipipe. Then it’s fun and not competitive. Maybe you’re riding the minipipe of real estate.
Yeah, I don’t need to be in the superpipe because people are fucking gnarly in there! Competitive! But I’ll ride the minipipe for fun. Nothing too serious.
I think that’s good.
I don’t know, but overall, I feel a little bit better balanced. The days that I get to go out and snowboard, I am stoked. I’m super stoked. I tune out everything else and just focus on snowboarding. I’m not snowboarding as much in the summer, I’m just running around juggling real estate and firefighting and all these other things. By the time winter comes, I look forward to checking out of both of those things and going snowboarding and squeezing everything out of it.
I think when you take on other things in your life, you really get to appreciate how amazing it is to have the opportunity to snowboard.
Yes. There’s not as much sparkle and big “woo woo” production that there used to be. It makes you really recalibrate and ask yourself, “Okay, am I doing this because I’m getting paid a lot and it’s glamorous? Or am I doing this because I’m having fun and I love it?” For me, I’m not getting paid that much, but I still have a great time and I am still getting paid, ha. I feel so lucky. The last four or five years, I’m like, When are they going to get wise and stop paying me? Ha.
Speaking about getting paid, you did get third at Natural Selection at Jackson Hole. Here she goes competing again, lands on the podium, and wins a fat paycheck. I cannot wait for you to spend that 10% on me at the bar when I get back to town, and for the record I know how much you made, so…ha.
I didn’t make that much!
I know, but beers are like five bucks, so that’s a lot of beers.
Ha. I got some money for getting third at Jackson Hole, but in Alaska, I just got the trip of a fucking lifetime.
And you got a car there, so what’s technically your ten percent?
Yeah, that’s true. I’ll take you for a bunch of rides in the Bronco. We’ll go on a road trip.
Let’s talk about the Natural Selection, but first, let’s recap quickly. You had this prolific career in competing, you hone in on what makes you happy, you move to Baker, you back seven the road gap, you solidify your legendary status in filming and in being a woman in the backcountry. Then at the top of the game, she pulls back a little bit, she starts doing real estate, she starts being a firefighter and then, boom! Travis Rice announces Natural Selection and what does she do? She agrees to it right away.
Yes, of course.
You threw yourself back into competing. What was your overall experience of the tour? What was it for you? What was it for snowboarding?
I would say, the overall experience, just to be a part of it, to ride with the people selected to be on that tour, it was just a total honor. And that I’m even relevant enough and was selected to be on the tour was mind-blowing, because I know I can go out and snowboard and ride pow and all that stuff, but the whole competition thing for me sort of ended. I had a reckoning within myself in 2013 when the Olympics started including slopestyle; I tried to do that and realized, What the fuck am I doing? I should not be competing again. It was just very clear. I know I’m capable, but I do not want to compete anymore. That was a big thing for me with the Olympics. I didn’t have the drive. It wasn’t the kind of snowboarding that I wanted to do any more. I was happy just doing my thing, filming.
Then, knowing that there was potential to be a women’s event in Natural Selection—it had been talked about over the years—I was like, “Oh, hell yeah!” when it was announced. I can’t compete with Anna Gasser in her arena, but I can compete with her in our arena. It’s the only time in my life that would happen and that maybe I have a leg up, ha.
I mean, when you think about Jackson Hole, you came out on top of Jamie Anderson, Anna Gasser, Hailey Langland, Elena Hight, and me! To me, the whole the vibe of that event—I remember seeing all the vests and I cried. I cried like my little snowboard self because I couldn’t believe I was next to all these heroes. That was my experience. But this is not an interview about me. I want to talk about your experience. What was it like through your eyes?
It was definitely a trip seeing it happen because over the years, I know Travis wanted to have women be a part of it. When they were like, “Okay, we’re doing it. It’s game time,” it was awesome. Then the pandemic happened. To see how determined Travis, Liam Griffin, and Carter Westfall were to still pull the tour off during COVID, and for me, to be so much a part of it, going out in the summer and getting to help shape the course, it just felt cool to be a part of that. Not just a name on an invite list, but to be a part of it. I would have been stoked just on that level, but then to see the event actually happen in Jackson and see everyone come together—it was a really special thing to be hanging out with Hailey and Anna and Zoi, people I would never get to snowboard with if this hadn’t happened. To be with them, see just how good they are, and just to ride with everyone was so cool.
When it came to the contest, itself, I tried to not have expectations. I tried to detach a little bit from the results and just have fun. I had an awesome time, got to snowboard some sick terrain, and got great conditions with some of the raddest people in snowboarding. To finish third was just sweet. I never thought I’d be getting a third place in my 38th year of life. And then, to get the call to go to Alaska, to be able to be a part of that, I just felt so lucky. Yeah, I think I needed to get my competitive juices flowing a little bit more in Alaska, ha, because at the time, it was more like, Oh I’m just so lucky to be here and I’m having such a good time, it doesn’t matter what happens. After, I was like, Fuck! I need to get my competitive juices back. I think the fact that the first tour was pulled off, I’m coming into this season with a little more of an “okay, let’s get serious” vibe.
Alright, we’re serious. That means I’m going to get serious, too.
You are serious. I like it. I need to get on Robin’s level! Ha.
You know you have really pushed me in snowboarding when I needed it and you have really served as an amazing mentor to me. I can say, without any doubt, that you have changed the way I snowboard, the way that I have confidence, and the way that I learned to go bigger, do better, do it again. To have spent so much time together filming and then to be in Alaska together, snowboarding and sharing that pinnacle moment with you, it was honestly one of the greatest moments of my life. You’re a mentor and a cornerstone for a lot of women in snowboarding. You’ve brought a lot of people up. I just hope that you recognize that. That wasn’t part of my interview, I just wanted to tell you that, because it’s so sick.
I’m going to cry. It was definitely really cool to be in Alaska to witness what you did. I know how bad you wanted that and I wanted it for you because we’ve been through a lot in our snowboarding together. I’m so glad that I got to be there and experience that with you. From when I met you and from what I’ve seen you do over the years, it was such a cool moment. I’m just proud of you.
That’s a product of what you do for other women. I see you doing that for Zoë and Mary Rand. That is your legacy, whether you like it or not. But moving forward and continuing with the Natural Selection Tour, are you going to do the tour again?
As long they invite me, I’m going to do it, of course! I’m 39, I’m probably never going to do anything like this ever again. So, if I can get invited back there, I’m going to fricking do it.
She’s in it! She’s in it for the long haul.
I’m in it. And I think it’s kind of good timing for me too, because it’s not like I’m out filming every day for a video part right now. That’s just not the environment we’re in. It’s like little clips or a trip here or there for Ride or Vans or 686. It’s all very small segments of the season, so it’s nice to do the tour. I feel like I got more visibility from Natural Selection than from any video part I’ve had. Everybody was like, “God, you had such a good season!” I had a good showing in Jackson, but if that’s all it takes for people to say I had a great season, I’ll take it, ha. It speaks volumes about how much impact Natural Selection has and how many people see it. It is so cool that what we do has that much exposure now.
How do you want to leave your mark on snowboarding—is that part of it? What do you want people to remember about you, even though you’re not done, of course.
It’s funny because I think about it and the best video part I ever filmed was in 2011-12 and that was ten years ago, ha! I would love for my snowboarding to be remembered for that and I think that was the pinnacle of my ability, but since then, I’ve kind of felt like that doesn’t really matter as much. I’ve put a lot more stock into the effect that we have on other people, like being looked at not as like a selfish snowboarder who’s always trying to film their best video part, but a fun person to ride with and a team player that also elevates others. I see that with Jess Kimura and what she does, as well as all the other girl projects—I want to have an impact in that way on snowboarding, not just as a good snowboarder. I want to have a larger effect in snowboarding on the community. I want to leave residue on all these people.
She wants to leave a residue.
Yeah, I want to leave a residue, ha. When people are asked the question, “Who did you look up to in snowboarding?” or “Who are your favorite snowboarders?” I want to be that person. I want to be the person that when the next awesome shred chick comes up and they’re asked, “Who brought you up and taught you things and influenced you?” I want to be that person. It still feels kind of selfish, but it feels more fulfilling to me than getting video part of the year. It’s just that my priorities have changed. When Zoi Sadowski-Synott mentioned me in her thank you speech when she won in Jackson, I was crying because it was like, Oh my god, I helped! This is what parents must feel like, ha—but a thousand times more.
I think that was great. I’m going to stop recording. Wow, that was a great interview. Way to go.