Interview conducted Feb 7, 2021 in Jackson Hole, WY by Mary Walsh. All photos by Brad Andrew.
For years, 686 team rider Hana Beaman has been setting the pace in the backcountry. An X Games Real Snow medal, Rider of the Year accolades, and recent video parts in Full Moon and Vans projects like Listen to the Eyes continue to cement Hana as one of the most talented big mountain riders in snowboarding (plus her on-hill karaoke talents are second to none). Last week, Hana arrived at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming with twenty-three of her snowboarding peers for the inaugural stop of the 2021 Natural Selection Tour. During first day of the two-day competition, Hana put down one of the strongest runs of the day, winning her heat in a best-of-two tiebreaker and advancing to semifinals, taking place on Tuesday, February 9th. In the days leading up to the final day of the Yeti Natural Selection at Jackson, Mother Nature reset the NST course with ample snowfall and we checked in with Hana to get her POV on what riding in Natural Selection has been like so far.
Mary Walsh: What made Natural Selection a contest that you wanted to be a part of?
Hana Beaman: The first thing is that it was Travis [Rice] putting it on. I put complete faith in him sometimes, well, all the time. Maybe I shouldn’t, ha, but I tend to have complete faith in whatever Travis is doing. Second was that it was at Jackson Hole, and it just sounded like such a good time. It sounded like a really appropriate platform for the people that have been riding backcountry to display what we do a little bit more to the general population. I felt like it was a good opportunity to shine a light on that, because we don’t get the views and the eyeballs that X Games and those other big contests get.
That makes sense—what you guys are doing in the backcountry it is such an integral part of snowboarding, but it hasn’t generally gotten the same exposure to a larger audience.
With video parts, we polish those really nicely for people to watch, so it looks really beautiful and seamless and easy, and I think Natural Selection is just a really raw look at how hard it is to ride powder and hit multiple features in a run. It is really hard. I think this shows that and does it justice. I think people think it is easy to go ride and do stuff in pow, but it’s so hard, ha. It’s just another level.
The Natural Selection course is inbounds, but the terrain is completely akin to what you guys ride in the backcountry. The course is very complex and there seems to be so many factors to take into play when you’re riding it.
Exactly. There are a lot of factors and a lot of choices. We don’t have to just think about what tricks we want to do, we have to think about what line we’re going to take, what hit, how much speed—there’s just a few more factors to consider, compared to say, a slopestyle run where you choose between two rails and then you hit three jumps. There’s barely any choice in slopestyle these days, and in this, it’s hard to choose what you want to hit—and then you have to figure out what kind of trick you are going to be able to land on the different features. There’s just a little more to consider.
You were in Jackson last year at the test event and you returned during the off season and worked on the course with Travis and the crew. What was it like arriving in Jackson and finally getting to ride the course during quarterfinals?
It was pretty cool to see it with all the snow on it this year because last year there was a fraction of the features, and I didn’t even really ride most of them. I was being really conservative at the time, because I had just come off back surgery. It was really cool to see it last year, then to see this summer how much more building went into it, and then to come back this winter and see it covered in snow. I just thought, “Wow, that is amazing.” When we first showed up it was a little low tide, but we could totally see the vision, and then once the snow turned on and started covering everything, it is just so perfect. Everything looks dreamy. It is ideal, which is amazing! I’m so like so grateful that I took the time to come out for the test event last year and to come out over the summer because I feel like I’ve had that time for it to marinate in my brain.
When you were dropping into your runs during quarterfinals on the first day of the event, how much did you have planned out and how much is just reading things and making choices as you go?
Ha, it was probably 50/50. I knew what features I would like to hit, like “Ooh, that looks really good,” and “That looks really fun,” and I knew the tricks I would most likely be able to do on those features, but I didn’t know what lines were going to get set before my run and I didn’t know what the snow was going to be like. We were all kind of waiting to see what happened [throughout the day]. My first run was probably the most accurate line that I had imagined and then I was like, “Hmm, that’s not really working.” So, on the fly, I thought, “Well, I just really want to hit the Aircraft Carrier. Screw it. I’ll just hit the Aircraft Carrier and I don’t necessarily know what I’m going to do afterwards. I just will let it flow.” Ha. Now that we’ve been in the course, I have a little bit better of an idea of what I would like to hit and maybe what tricks I could do, but it all comes down to the day, right? Who opens up what jump, how deep it is, if it works to go from feature to feature to feature, if I land, what the other girls hit—it’s good to have an idea of what you’re going to be able to do, but you kind of piece it together on the fly. Something Travis said before we competed really resonated with me. He was like, “It’s Natural Selection. Your ability to adapt, overcome, and figure it out is what’s going to get you through it.” And that was so true.
What was it like competing in the head-to-head format? You were up against Jamie Anderson in the first round, who is a friend of yours that you helped to introduce to the backcountry while filming for Full Moon.
It was pretty cool. I don’t think I’ve ever done a head-to-head contest, but it’s nice in the sense that you only have to worry about one person. I definitely had an advantage going second and watching Jamie. There was a bit of anxiety before she dropped because I know what she’s capable of, but then if you see somebody have a bobble, you kind of take a little breath of relief, ha. She is fully capable of putting down a hammer run, though, so it wasn’t until the very end that I was like, “Okay, I don’t have to dig as deep to pull out some insane run out of my butt, but I still have to put down a run.” I couldn’t just cruise down the course. It’s cool because you can focus in on one person instead of trying to outdo seven people, but it sucks because it’s pretty cutthroat. You get two runs and if you can’t put it down, you’re out.
What is your favorite feature on the course so far?
So far, it’s definitely the Aircraft Carrier. That thing is a perfect jump.
Another thing that’s really cool about the 2021 Natural Selection Tour is that this is the first opportunity for women in compete in an event like this. What does that mean to you as an individual who has been instrumental in broadening and progressing the purview of women in the backcountry?
I think it’s huge because just to have other women and young girls get to see something like this opens up a whole new bag of tricks. I know Travis and the Natural Selection crew have been trying to get us involved for the last eight years or however long it’s been, so when they finally made this event happen, [they made sure that] we were involved and that is so amazing. I feel like there are a lot of women that probably didn’t even realize there are all these girls that are riding at this level, so it’s really cool that we just have the exposure. Hopefully more girls see it and they can connect with it.
Day two of Natural Selection is tomorrow. Going into the finals, what are you thinking?
I am trying to figure out what I’m going to do, ha. I still have my eye on a couple of features that I wasn’t able to hit in quarters, but I am going to try to absorb even more of the course into my brain and just go with the flow. I have a few stock tricks that I’m going to try to do—all of them in a run would be ideal, but my focus is going to be on putting down a clean run and trying to make it look as good as I can.
Lastly, social media has been alight with people who loved the pink kit that you were running during day one. What gear did you have on?
I was in the GLCR Geode Bib in Abalone Camo and the GLCR Hydra Jacket in Coral Pink.