The powder and the glory
Helen Schettini is shredding her way into the mainstream backcountry snowboarding scene.
Her big break came in the fall of 2011, when YES. Snowboards — a company sponsoring Schettini— released a film featuring elite-level backcountry boarders, including the 28-year-old Kamloops product who cut her teeth at Sun Peaks Resort.
“They were making a movie and said they might bring me out a few times,” Schettini told KTW. “They said they might put me in and they might not.”
Turns out she did make the film — and her life has been a whirlwind ever since.
“I feel very blessed,” said the powder-seeking rider who grew up in Rayleigh. “I worked my ass off for it, so it’s not something I feel lucky for, but I feel very fortunate to be in this position.”
The appearance showcased her fearless approach to riding and the snowboarding world has taken notice.
Schettini is on the cover of, and featured inside, the recently released 2013 women’s annual edition of Snowboard Canada.
It’s on newsstands now.
The former member of Kamloops-based West Tech Snowboarding Club is also featured inside the November issue of Snowboard Magazine, a Colorado-based publication.
“I’m definitely getting a lot more known now in the U.S., which is the market you need to be known in if you want to be successful in the sport,” Schettini said.
The marketable thrill-seeker is sponsored by YES., Adidas, Billabong and VIVO Headwear, to name a few — and, yes, her buddies do accept leftover swag.
“I always give my friends free stuff,” Schettini said.
“It’s like promoting me, too, because there are signature products.”
Up until this year, Schettini, who moved to Whistler when she was 17, had been working at an Italian restaurant in the off-season and chasing powder when the white stuff arrived.
Last summer, however, she was able to ditch the restaurant gig in favour of travelling across the globe with sponsors and friends.
“I haven’t had to work a normal day job in a little over a year now,” she said. “It’s been amazing to be able to do what I love for a job.”
She augmented three trips to California this summer with a photo shoot in Chile and a three-week venture through Europe.
Living her dream would not be possible without her upbringing in Kamloops and the time she spent at Sun Peaks, Schettini said.
She remembers her roots and credits West Tech — and her brother, who introduced her to snowboarding when she was 14 — for much of her success.
“That was a big part of it because it got me right into competing the first year,” Schettini said.
“I got really serious right away. I almost didn’t even have that recreational level of snowboarding, which is a good thing, I think.”
Backcountry snowboarding was not her first love.
Schettini competed in a variety of disciplines — including boardercross and half-pipe — before she found a home among the trees and feather-light flakes.
“It got to a point where I wasn’t enjoying myself anymore and I was getting injured a lot,” she said.
“And, just being in Whistler, the powder is everywhere and it’s so good. It was just a natural progression.
“I stopped competing after a while, got a snowmobile and got into backcountry more.”
The life span of a backcountry snowboarder tends to be longer than that of competitive rider.
“It’s more about experience and knowledge,” Schettini said.
“If you stay in shape and healthy, you can go to almost 35 or 40. On the contest scene, you’re usually on your last legs at 28 or 29.”
Whistler is Schettini’s favourite mountain and the city itself will likely want to claim her as its own, but the Tournament Capital and Sun Peaks will have something to say about that.
“There’s always going to be a place in my heart with Sun Peaks,” she said.
“Every Christmas, I go home and I shred the mountain and it’s unbelievable there. It’s fun going back to see what it is and what it’s become.”