YES. She’s a Girl: The Helen Schettini interview
Even with a couple of good years under her belt, Helen had plenty of sleepless nights while filming for this year’s YES. It’s a Movie Too. Asked if it’s tough being the only girl in a crew of seasoned pros, Helen replies: “It’s 100 percent pressure being the only girl – landing tricks, keeping up sledding, building stuff properly. You’re only as strong as your weakest link, and I can’t be the weakest link.” In addition to the challenges of being the only girl in the distinguished crew, YES. made this year even more difficult by deciding to bring viewers something new. These days even kids in Mammoth know where the Forum Stepdown is, so YES. made it their mission to shoot in places other than Whistler’s tapped out zones. According to Schettini the new approach had its ups and downs. On one hand there were plenty of cool, new features to get creative with, but on the other hand they spent precious time scouting and accessing new zones.
“It’s 100 percent pressure being the only girl – landing tricks, keeping up sledding, building stuff properly. You’re only as strong as your weakest link, and I can’t be the weakest link.”
Annie Boulanger is another mentor-cum-peer to Helen and one of the few riders in the history of women’s snowboarding to successfully freeride for a living. As a friend and regular riding partner, Boulanger has nothing but props for Helen. “Helen is super driven and doesn’t get distracted much from her goals, which is cool to see. She’s always at the gym too. It’s hard to keep up with her sometimes. We ride a lot together and she freaking goes for it. Since the first day sledding she came out with us, she picks big stuff and doesn’t back out. It was a little scary sometimes to watch at first but now she has more knowledge and is putting it all together, and she’s killing it.”
Photo: Phil Tifo
Boulanger points to several characteristics that invariably come up when talking about Helen — determination, commitment, work ethic and fearlessness. To further illustrate these attributes we asked Helen about the photos of her with a nasty black eye that circulated the Internet earlier this year: “ It was during a cold spell in mid-January. It was me and Mikee Pederson, and we had a filmer, but his sled didn’t work … it was one of those days. I can never say no, so we went out anyway and built a pat down thing. The sun was going off of it, so thankfully (Andrew) Burns offered to film us. I tried hitting it, but the bomb holes were big, and I landed on the upside of one, and my knee ate my face. When the guys saw it they started freaking out, which is pretty much the worst thing when you can’t see your face. I didn’t want anyone to have to go back with me, so I just hung out for a couple of hours. By the afternoon I decided to go get stitched up because the gash was pretty big, so I headed out on my own, though that’s generally against the rules of sledding. Suddenly the belt went, and I was stuck because I had lent my spare one out. I just sat there with my bloody eye and swollen knee until some slednecks came along and helped me out.”
Photo: Phil Tifo
The last few years have been a whirlwind for Helen, leaving her little time to appreciate what she’s worked for. She says she’d like to look back on what she’s accomplished, but she’s too busy planning the future. Inspired by what Annie Boulanger and Victoria Jealouse achieved before her, Helen wants to model her career after theirs, but she wants to create her own path too. In the coming years she sees herself living and filming in Whistler and traveling as much as possible. She’s looking forward to riding with the Adidas crew and Annie and to seeing what else she can accomplish with the YES. guys. Above all, she wants to be a role model so that she can show girls that they can accomplish anything as long as they stay focused and work hard. Helen has already had an effect on up-and-coming Whistler rider, Taylor Godber. “Helen continually inspires me to keep working. Everything that she has received in terms of recognition is from her own blood, sweat, and tears. Her riding speaks for itself and that is the most legit and respectable reason for recognition.”