Annie Fast is Senior Director of Programming for YouTube's new-ish Action channel, Network A, and was, before that, Editor in Chief of TransWorld SNOWboarding magazine. Fast not only has a great last name for a snowboarder -- she won her division at the Baker Banked in '07 -- she has long been one of the sport's strongest, most authentic voices. She lives in Encinitas, Calif. but, as an Air Force brat, she was raised everywhere from Colorado to Virginia to Germany. Worldly. Wise. Fast.
ESPN: What are the key roles you've played in the industry?
Annie Fast: I always say that in retrospect it looks like a straight line to where I am now, but along the way it seemed like a winding road, because my main motivation was always just to ride more. I worked at a shop in Fairfax, Va. called East Coast Sunsets; that was my first "industry job." I had a series of jobs that allowed me to snowboard as much as possible throughout college including working at World Boards [in Montana] ... and as a camp counselor then coach at High Cascade for five summers.
High Cascade probably set me up the best for where I am now, because so many of the friends I made ended up in the industry. I had some sponsors throughout it all as a snowboarder but the pro thing never really panned out for me... I loved competing, didn't love photo shoots.
My last job prior to TransWorld was as a guide at the newly opened Yellowstone Club in Big Sky, Mont. I worked there as I was continuing to develop my post-college freelance writing business, which was picking up. [That] job was key for me to be able to make the transition down to a semi-desk job in So Cal because it entailed riding an obscene amount of powder, so I got it out of my system -- or at least topped off the tank.
What is a tastemaker to you and do you think of yourself as one?
I imagine that if you set out to be a "tastemaker," you're probably spending a lot of time reacting to other people's reactions to your actions and adjusting, which isn't very authentic. I think of a real tastemaker as someone who's genuinely following their own path, whether anyone's paying attention or not.
At TransWorld I wanted the magazine to be a reflection of what was going on in snowboarding -- not to set the course, because I saw that as the rider's role. I oversaw that -- does that make me a tastemaker?
Now that you're at the forefront of the YouTube revolution, what's your take on the current status of video's power on the web?
I don't think it's so much about the status of video on the web -- it's more about people's viewing habits in broad strokes, right down to the viewing habits of the average American, sitting on their couch not tuning in to the show at the set time, but watching it later when it's convenient on their iPad or their phone... People expect to get content where and when they want it. I think that's more what we're targeting in on.
Yeah, you get what you want when you want it.
Have there been any surprises since launching Network A?
I think we had an idea that this would matter but didn't know the extent to which it would matter. Seventy-two hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute and getting our videos to rise up from the noise means understanding how important social media is in that endeavor... It's not about having people try to find "that YouTube video" or coming to our landing page, it's more like they're gonna be on TransWorld or be looking at Travis Pastrana's Twitter. So we're just trying to be smart about making sure [we are] where people are looking.
Who are a few tastemakers you admire within snowboarding?
Jeff Pensiero at Baldface Lodge [home of the Red Bull Supernatural] because he took a chance on building a snowcat lodge in the mountains, and created one of the most amazing snowboarding retreats and coolest scenes in the world.
Travis Rice is another. He sets the bar high for himself and then exceeds it by double; he definitely is a trailblazer... There are so many creative independent people involved in snowboarding from the riders themselves, to the cinematographers, photographers, writers, designers, artists -- people I really get inspired by; too many to list.
I got to spend a few weeks in Japan with the Car Danchi crew, cruising around Hokkaido. They're total pioneers, doing something completely out of step with what their culture says they should be doing. I respect that. They're true tastemakers, too.
What are the most significant changes you've witnessed in snowboarding?
When I started, cinematographers were all filming on 16mm and photographers were submitting slide sheets; there was no such thing as social media. We used to publish contest results in print months afterward, and we'd post event coverage online the following week. Now we scramble to get slideshows, videos, and results up the same day while Tweeting and Instagram-ing with frozen fingers.
The transition to digital has changed the whole game not just for established media, but for everyone. We've seen riders like Ethan Deiss get discovered and sponsored by Burton through the web video he filmed in Minnesota with his friends. Riders have their own blogs, film crews post weekly updates throughout the winter, you can communicate with your favorite riders through their Twitter feed -- everything has changed.
As interesting as the digital explosion has been, snowboarding has been diversifying as it has grown into different scenes -- the urban street scene, the splitboarders, the double-cork club, backcountry film crews. It's never been more difficult to be a well-rounded rider; there aren't many who can pull it. Winter's short.
What's the main element that ties shredders together?
My answer is the act of snowboarding itself. A board, snow, and gravity come together to make a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. I always have that realization on the first day of the season when you first strap in and turn your board downhill. It's so much fun.