Hans was born in Port Angeles, Washington, but lived his earliest years on the Olympic Peninsula in Neah Bay, home of the Makah Nation, where his father was a physician with the Indian Health Service. With family moves to accommodate work, education, and travel interests, Hans was no stranger to life on the move. By the time Hans was seven, he had lived (and skied) in Norway, New Mexico and Seattle.
It was in Bozeman, Montana, where the Saari family moved in 1985, that Hans began skiing regularly. Skiing was a weekend activity, secondary to the debate team, soccer, and learning the cello. Hans then left for Yale University where aspirations of becoming a lawyer faded and a hunger for adventure in the mountains began to take hold. Not long after graduation, he was hiking and skiing in the mountains of Montana, honing his climbing and descent skills, and tackling some of the area's most challenging back-country terrain.
Hans met photographer Kristoffer Erickson in 1996, and together they explored the Rockies with an eye for ascents and descents Hans could write about and Kris could photograph – material they sold to regional publications. The newly-formed partnership caught the attention of the DesLauriers Brothers, a filmmaking team that profiled the duo’s first international expedition, a successful attempt to ski Peru’s Cordillera Blanca in 1998. The following year, Hans, Kris, and world-renowned climbers Conrad Anker, Alex Lowe, and Dave Bridges traveled to Tibet for a first descent of the 8000 meter peak Shishapangma, an expedition that cost the lives of Lowe and Bridges.
After the Tibet tragedy, and with a long-term girlfriend, Helen Motter, Hans began focusing more on writing and less on the high-risk side of his ski pursuits. The subjects of his writing, featured in magazines such as Outside, Couloir, Powder, and Blue, ranged from stories about skiing amongst penguins in Antarctica to the commercialization of outdoors sport. Hans gained a reputation as not only a world-class ski-mountaineer, but a sensitive intellectual who thought deeply about the mountains and the people who visited and lived in them. Hans was writing an article about legendary ski-mountaineer Pierre Tardivel in Chamonix, France, when he fell attempting to descend the Tardivel Entrance to the Gervasutti Couloir near Mont Blanc. He died on May 8, 2001.