Remembering Hans Saari

I don’t remember when we first met, but it was sometime in the early ‘90s, after Hans graduated from Yale and returned to Bozeman. We first crossed paths at a friend’s house and eventually wound up working the night shift together at Dana Design. This was the ultimate place to work—ski all day, inspect backpacks for four hours, then hit the Haufbrau.

Though we attempted to be the best inspectors we could, not letting even the smallest flaw go unnoticed, our minds always wandered to the next day’s activities: where to go, what to do, which slopes to ski. Work seemed to be the breeding ground for our harebrained schemes. Add to that the active imaginations of Aaron Blaker and Kase Cannon, and the fun never ended.

The four of us began planning trips for days, weeks, even months down the road. From the Bridgers to the Tetons, the mountains were ours to ski. Our goal was to make first, second, or third descents. We all had the drive for it, but Hans seemed to be the backbone, always doing the research and finding the best slopes for us to ski. He even kept a journal from day one of all our accomplishments.

One of the most memorable trips is the four of us heading out to Seattle, catching a Grateful Dead show on Friday night, then waking up the next morning and heading to Mount Ranier. Some twenty-four hours later we had already touched the summit and made turns down the mountain.

As time went on, various other peaks and hair-raising chutes were tackled, but Hans began to advance beyond the rest of us. He took to skiing the most challenging and unheard-of peaks, reaching far beyond the mountains of Montana and Wyoming. He started writing about each adventure and, combining his writing talent with Kristoffer Erikson’s photography, published articles in the likes of Skiing and Powder magazines.

Sponsorships from The North Face and others helped take the both of them around the globe. Hans was living the life he had chosen and the life the rest of us only dreamed of. And he did it with passion, knowledge, and the drive to succeed.

Hans died last spring while skiing a steep chute in France. When I received word of his death, memories of all the past adventures began flowing through my mind: post-holing five hours for fifteen minutes’ worth of turns, first-time-ever ice climbing, busted knuckles, frozen toes and fingers, nerve-racking first turns, and four hours of inspecting backpacks every night while stories for the next day were in the works.

I, along with everyone who had the opportunity to know Hans, will always cherish and share the memories of times past. In his last article for Outside Bozeman, Hans finished with a phrase from his Norweigian heritage, “Jeg Skal Frem” or, “I will succeed.” And that he did.