YES. She’s a Girl: The Helen Schettini interview
Photo: Jussi Grznar
Anyone who saw Helen Schettini’s 2011 footage for YES. It’s a Movie knows that she can snowboard and not just according to the subpar standards associated with the phrase, “Pretty good — for a girl.” Helen can hold her own when riding with heavy-hitters like DCP, JP Solberg and Romain De Marchi. She drops cliffs bigger than the ones you claim at the bar; she gets real pop off of backcountry booters, making her grabs look flawless; and she stomps her landings… in pow.
Before filming with YES., Helen had lived in Whistler for nearly a decade. Like many riders in the early 2000s, she started out competing but realized pretty quickly that it wasn’t for her. “It was a powder day in Whistler, and I was supposed to go to Calgary to ride an icy pipe, but I didn’t love ice and decided that powder was the way to go,” she says. Despite three broken legs, writing off two sleds in one day and years of working her derrière off in the summers to save up for the winter, Helen unrelentingly pursued freeriding. Even her super supportive parents regularly checked in with her to see if she would rather quit and go to school.
Photo: Jussi Grznar
In the ensuing years, Helen made a name for herself in the Whistler community as a talented backcountry rider and a girl who could sled like the dudes, but she struggled to gain industry-wide recognition. Helen figures a number of reasons factored in to why she flew under the radar of media and would-be sponsors for so long. “First and foremost I love to snowboard, so I wasn’t doing anything to make money, a career or a name. If I had kept competing or decided to ride rails, it would have gotten me noticed quicker, but I wanted to ride powder. And if it hadn’t worked out, at least I was still doing what I wanted to do.”
On a sunny day at the top of Blackcomb, you’ll find hundreds of people who love snowboarding, but — guaranteed — none of them is as passionate about it as Helen. Everything she does in a day is to better her snowboarding. She is studying applied human nutrition through a Vancouver-based university, so that she knows how to fuel herself for riding and keep herself in top form during the off-season. When she’s not riding, she’s at the gym getting strong. If avy danger keeps her out of the backcountry, she rides the hill. If it’s crappy out, she goes sledding anyhow because she knows that every opportunity to get out back is an opportunity to improve her sledding, riding and backcountry know-how.
Photo: Left – Phil Tifo | Right: – Mark Gribbon
When Helen signed on with YES. two seasons ago, she chalked one up for the ride-hard-and-get-noticed side of the ability versus marketability debate. Though her stunning Vivo ads prove she could have easily depended on looks alone. For YES., the decision to bring Helen on to the team was an obvious one explains co-founder and team rider, JP Solberg. “When we started this project, and Helen was getting on board it was never really, “Oh geez, we need a girl on our team.” She was fucking ripping on her snowboard and could go anywhere on her sled, so there has never been that sense of taking care of the girl, you know? Also, she is super independent and handles her own business, and at that point you are just part of the family, it’s not about being a boy or a girl.” For Helen, being on YES. meant that she got to ride with the very people that she had “looked up to forever,” and she was given the chance to film her breakthrough part. Helen’s segment from YES. It’s a Movie, hit websites from Toronto to Munich, and at long last everyone could see what Whistler snowboarders already knew about the tenacious girl from Kamloops, BC. Then came two more noteworthy sponsorship deals, one with Billabong and the other with Adidas.