• Hel of a Time: A Winter with Helen Schettini. Episode 2

Part 2 of Hel of a Time has Helen heading to Japan in search for perfect power.  Helen's trip to Japan in this episode paints the perfect picture, with backcountry snowboarding at its finest.  Being on top of the world, lost in the wilderness with nothing but miles of waist deep snow to slash. 

Truth is, the backcountry world is filled with uncontrollable elements: avalanches, bad weather, mechanical problems and injuries.  The backcountry can be a harsh deceptive paradise, the only thing Helen can do is be well prepared for the challenging circumstances that await.  Below, Helen gives us a look inside her backpack, where the contents are vital and they could save her life.


  1. ABS DaKine Bag - Backpack for avalanche survival. It has a cartridge that blows up an airbag if you get caught in an avalanche. The chances of survival are SO much higher with this on your back!
  2. Hand warmers - In the backcountry, we are in the cold for 10-14 hours each day, with nowhere to warm up. If your hands get cold, you either have to go hike up a hill or start digging to warm up.
  3. Head lamp - Survival 101… not everything works out as planned, so you need to be prepared for being out in the elements after the sun goes down.
  4. Whistle - Obviously to use when in need of help.
  5. Emergency blanket - For injured people. You need to keep their body temperature at a good rate, or they could go in shock.
  6. SPOT device - This is a GPS system that is connected by satellite to helicopter operations incase of an emergency. You rarely get cellphone service in the backcountry so this is a great way to get help when needed.
  7. Swiss army knife - For random reasons.
  8. Sunscreen - Even though it can be below -20 Degrees Celsius (0 degrees Fahrenheit), the sun can still burn; especially when you're surrounded by snow (it reflects the sun and makes the rays even stronger).
  9. Flashlight - Just in case…
  10. Saw - There are times your sled gets caught on a tree trunk or branch and the easiest way to solve this problem is to cut down the branch. Also, sometimes a quick pruning of a tree can really help with the execution of a feature (making a cleaner entry into a jump or cliff makes you feel more confident in stomping it).
  11. Chapstick - With SPF, a must!
  12. Batteries - Extras are always good in case the flashlight or transceiver are running low.
  13. Sunglasses - It's nice to not wear goggles every second of the day, partly to avoid an insane goggle tan. When you are digging a jump or hiking, your goggles may fog creating extra unnecessary annoyances.
  14. Camera - When you are at the bottom of a feature, it is easy to pinpoint your line of decent… but once you're on top of it, it is easy to lose your reference points. Many features have convex rolls so you can't see what you're about to jump off of. A camera is really useful to remind yourself what the feature looks like when you are at the top and the reference points needed to get through it flawlessly. 
  15. Extra goggles - Fog, snow, and other issues can disrupt clear lenses, making extra goggles a major bonus.
  16. Balaclava (Facemask) - It is cold out there! I want to keep my skin as protected as possible, especially on my face! I will rarely show my skin off to the elements in the backcountry.
  17. Thermos - Tea or soup - Having something warm is the best way to rejuvenate yourself when your facing the elements all day. Hot tea or warm soup makes everyone else super jealous.
  18. Beanie (I call it a toque) - I'll always wear a beanie to keep my head warm (most heat is lost through your head).
  19. Water bottle - Stay hydrated!
  20. Gloves - ALWAYS bring extra gloves because they always freeze up and make it very difficult to  sled home at the end of a day. 
  21. Helmet - Snowmobiling is a dangerous sport and there have been so many scary instances when the sled can flip and send you flying; either into a tree or put you under the track. I would never ride without one.
  22. Tranceiver - The most important piece of equipment out there. I will NEVER go into the backcountry without one. I will NEVER go out into the backcountry if one of my crew doesn't have one. These things save your life. They are a way to find people if caught in an avalanche. They are turned to 'SEND' from the second you leave your car, and if someone gets caught in an avy, the rest of the crew turns their transceiver to 'SEARCH' to find the person. An avalanche course is very necessary to learn how to properly use these and make it second nature if one needs to use it.
  23. Shovel - A shovel is most important to dig for people if they are caught in an avalanche. It is also very useful when building a jump or creating a good manicured "natural feature".
  24. Probe - This plus the last 2 items (transceiver and shovel) are the 3 items absolutely necessary for backcountry survival. The order of use in case of emergency is to search for the body with a transceiver, then probe (which is a long stick that helps determine the whereabouts and how deep the person may be buried), then use the shovel to get em out as fast as possible!
  25. Vest - It's always nice to have extra layers in case it gets chilly.
  26. A bright jacket! Photographers and filmers will yell at you if you blend into the surroundings, so wearing a bright jacket will ultimately get you more editorial and photos run in magazines.

Be safe out there!

-Helen