All of a sudden, Helen Schettini is everywhere. The 28-year-old British Columbia backcountry slayer dropped a full video part Wednesday, has a deadly YES snowboard pro model in stores now and stands alongside Jake Blauvelt, Kazu Kokubo and Eric Jackson as part of one of the heaviest snowboard teams around.
Despite her recent surge in popularity, Schettini came up the ranks the hard way. After graduating from high school in Kamloops, British Columbia, in 2002, her folks gave her the option of hitting school full-time or paying rent at their house.
"I figured that if I'm paying rent, I may as well be somewhere cool, like Whistler. So I made the move. They kinda freaked out a bit," Schettini says.
After shifting to Whistler at age 17, she moved up the Canadian halfpipe ranks until her roommates' powder addiction eventually rubbed off on her.
"I'd leave the house on a pow day to try and shovel out a hit in the halfpipe; they would be ripping lines all over the mountain, and kept telling me to join them, because that's where the fun was. They were right," she says.
By 2005, Schettini had scored a snowmobile "through a breakup," and started venturing into Whistler's vast backcountry. Since then, she has become the only female on the YES team, appeared in all of their movies and was nominated for TransWorld's "Rookie of the Year" award for her "YES. It's a Movie" part. Her fame has snowballed.
"Some people may think Helen is an overnight sensation because of how quickly the media and new sponsors have thrust her into the limelight," Whistler O.G. Kevin Sansalone says. "But it was no boy-band formula that [did it]. She has dedicated her life and worked very hard to be where she is today -- going to the gym before the light comes up, riding all day, then serving tables at night."
Her four-part web series, released in September, followed by the full part that dropped Wednesday, are sure to increase her notoriety as a hard charger and one very determined woman. We caught up with her from her summer "bubble" in Encinitas, Calif., hot on the heels of a shred mission to Chile this summer.
XGames.com: Is it weird having straight-up "fans" on Facebook or have you always kind of hoped to be in the spotlight?
Helen Schettini: I'll never be used to it but I appreciate it so much. I really try to take a lot of time on the social aspect of the job so I can promote myself and give people the opportunity to ask questions. I truly think that is one of the most important parts of this fortunate life I have; to communicate to fans that dreams can come true and hard work pays off.
What was the impetus behind your new web series? Looks like a big deal …
I signed on with Greg Martin from FRIDAY, an agency and a production company. They have produced many series, including Jake Blauvelt's "Naturally" and Eero Ettala's "Cooking with Gas." It was an easy decision because I knew I was in good hands with these guys.
Did you feel up for the task when the offer came your way?
I was obviously scared s---less to actually have a series on me. It's a daunting task to not have anyone else hold any weight on their shoulders. But I knew it was a challenge and I'm always up for it. I do have a lot of friends (JP Solberg, Mads Jonsson) making appearances throughout to add more depth to the series, and I feel it will bring a lot more male viewers to the table.
I'm super-excited to see the outcome and how audiences respond to it. Don't get me wrong, I'm going to be super-nervous, but it's a good nervous, I think.
What are you hoping the series will deliver in the end?
I hope this series will showcase female backcountry riding at its best and allow viewers to see the trials and tribulations involved … The elements of Mother Nature and being a female in the backcountry is something that is difficult to express, and I feel this will be able to add that aspect. I also hope that my riding will turn heads in the industry and push the level of women's riding.
Did you ever think you'd have a snowboard with your name on it -- for reasons other than theft-deterrence?
It feels pretty surreal. I know it's going to feel even crazier when I see it in stores this fall and in the lift line this winter. This has been a dream my entire snowboarding life but I'm not sure I have let it set in just yet. People keep reminding me of how cool it is and that's when I think about it the most.
How big of an influence were the local Whistler shreds, like Rube Goldberg, that you've spent resort days with?
These local Whistler shreds are the reason I ride as hard as I do. They're the ones that give you a run for your money and you have to keep up with them no matter what -- otherwise they don't invite you out the next powder day. It has nothing to do with a paycheck or an appearance. They are out there rain or shine with huge grins on their faces due to their pure love for snowboarding.
Who are some riders you'd like to emulate in some way?
I would love to emulate riders who find features so naturally and ride so seamlessly. Jake Blauvelt is a perfect example. I also love how the YES guys (DCP, Romain DeMarchi, and JP Solberg) can all look at a mountain and find a million different lines throughout. It shows the creativity of their minds and that's something I am learning every day. I also just rode in Chile with Manuel Diaz and he blew me away. His flawless style and eye for features was insane to watch.
You have a reputation as being a pretty fierce individual. What keeps you grinding on your goals?
I have a one-track mind with way too much drive and determination. Call it stubbornness, but I can't and won't stop 'til I achieve every possible goal in my head. Regretting things in life is my worst fear, and life is too short to live with regrets; so just go for it!