.As a U.S. Olympian in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games and world champion in her almost 10-year career, freestyle aerial skier Kiley McKinnon saw an opportunity for more inclusivity in the attire she wore. Not only were her ski uniforms typically designed by men, her Olympic uniform was unisex and not made specifically for women’s (or men’s) bodies.
“I was wearing ski pants that were the same length as a teammate who was 5’ 1” – I’m 5’9” so the pants were way too short on me”, McKinnon explained. “Overall, the ski wear that I was wearing never fit me properly”. One would guess that when you’re hurling yourself through the air, strapped to skis, with the entire world watching you, the last thing you want to think about is your ski pants. “It’s not the best feeling to be competing on the world stage and not love what you’re wearing”, said McKinnon.
All this to say, McKinnon knew there was room for improvement. She later met Ariana Ferwerda (the brand’s CEO) through a mutual friend and the two hit it off, bonding over their shared love of skiing and the lack of well-fitting ski gear. The two then met Karelle Golda (Halfday’s CMO) and with Golda’s background in fashion marketing, the three co-founders set out to change the game.
Identifying a Hole in the Market
When Ferwerda moved to Denver three years ago, she was “frustrated as a consumer” due to the fact there weren’t a lot of options made for women in the ski gear space. As a recreational skier, Ferwerda found that she was looking for something that had a great fit and quality, but didn’t sacrifice style.
In McKinnon’s experience as a competitive skier, she found that products were “oftentimes designed for men first, then altered slightly to fit women’s bodies.” She noted a common industry tagline of the “shrink it and pink it method”. Meaning, “they take the men’s skiwear, they shrink it, and they make it in colors that they think women will want to wear, when that’s usually not the case”, McKinnon explained. They found that the modern woman isn’t typically looking for loud colors and patterns, she wants something that’s more minimal, that can be worn on an everyday basis.
To help identify other women’s issues with skiwear and to ensure they were not alone, the team surveyed over 200 women and found that they all said relatively the same thing: “they all thought the women’s ski wear industry was lacking,” said McKinnon. She went on to explain that their findings described a situation many women were experiencing. “With other activewear, there’s this brand connection where you’re excited to wear the clothes to go work out. It makes you excited to get into the gym. But with skiwear, we found no one really felt that way.” McKinnon and Ferwerda then enlisted the help of Golda, with her fashion and retail marketing and e-commerce background. With each of their unique backgrounds and skillsets, they got to work.
“We started working on the brand in early 2020, and while we were outsiders to the outdoor industry, we knew fashion and retail quite well,” the team explained. As they were building the brand, they were able to bring on a few experienced designers to help bring their product ideas to life. In November 2020, Halfdays was born.
Building the Brand
The Halfdays team explained that, when they set out to change the women’s skiwear apparel space, their overarching goal was to create a brand that was the opposite of what was currently in the outdoor, technical apparel space. “We operate a bit out of the status quo of a typical outdoor-industry brand,” said Golda. ”[A background in] fashion gives me a really unique perspective of what women want to wear and what excites them”.
Their first step was identifying where Halfdays fit as a brand in the competitive landscape. “Usually its men making skiwear for women, not women making skiwear for women. I think one of our biggest differentiators is that we’re actually the ones wearing the product and we’re the ones creating it,” said McKinnon.
The Halfdays team found that skiwear typically falls on two ends of a spectrum; super-technical brands like Arc’teryx and luxury brands like Moncler, which both appeal to a specific type of consumer. They found that there weren’t many brands that fell in the middle. Brands that spoke to a modern consumer who wants sustainability and a direct-to-consumer experience. As a result, Halfdays has a range of products that are meant for everyone – “from one-run-and-done skiers to Olympians, everything is designed to perform technically and transition into your everyday winter wardrobe as well,” the team explained.
The Halfdays team launched the brand with the goal of creating an approachable, inclusive brand for women at every level of skiing proficiency. “Color was a big thing for us – but fit was huge,” explained McKinnon. With this determination to create clothes that actually fit how women wanted, Halfdays began to set itself apart. Golda explained, “ski pants are a bit like bikini bottoms. Usually people buy one pair of ski pants and more tops and jackets. When we were planning quantities, we figured we’d sell more jackets than pants. In fact, the ski pants’ [sales] just exploded because the fit was so much better than anything on the market. This showed us that finally, women felt great in what they were wearing.”
Ultimately, Halfdays aims to create an approachable, technically sound, lighthearted brand with products that are both fashion-forward and functional. “When we were developing the brand, we all agreed that we really wanted to have something that felt really approachable. We feel this comes through in our brand voice and social media. It seeps into our culture and when we develop products as well,” said Golda. Many of their brand photos are actual customers who purchased Halfdays apparel, wore it in their daily lives or on the mountain and shared with the brand.
Launching a brand in a pandemic certainly had its fair share of extra challenges (manufacturing and supply chain to name a few), but the Halfdays team explained that there were several unexpected opportunities. “People were out there skiing. Big events and trips were canceled, so getting a new ski outfit and going to the mountains was an exciting thing that they actually could do,” Ferwerda described.
As the brand’s Chief Product Officer, McKinnon, had to be nimble and get creative when production roadblocks were put in her way. Halfdays was originally supposed to be manufactured out of the U.S. and due to COVID, production was shipped overseas. What McKinnon found was a manufacturer that specialized in technical apparel. “We’re really happy to be working with the company that we’re working with now and I think we might not have had the product that we do today if we didn’t make this move. We’re in a better place because of it,” she said.
Skiwear Trends, According to Halfdays
With Golda’s knowledge and keen eye on the fashion industry, the Halfdays team is confident in knowing what their consumers are looking for. With that, they had some thoughts on trends within the skiwear industry.
According to the three women, the embrace of color is going to be big in activewear next year. “Color is expressive and personal in so many ways and we’re looking forward to adding a few new hues for next season”, they explained.
Halfdays is also an option for those that are looking to try out skiwear, but may not have plans to ski. The Halfdays team explained that their best-selling active layers take inspiration from a vintage ski base layer. They’re designed to have the fit and compression of a classic active legging, so they’re very versatile. “They’re great for lounging, working out and skiing,” said the team. They went on, “for cooler days, the active layers look great as a full set. When it’s warmer out, we love the leggings with a sports bra or cropped active top. They’re also so cute with a fanny pack, oversized tee and bucket hat!”
The Future of Halfdays
As the team looks to the future, they hope to be a well-known ski, snowboard and outerwear brand. Not only a global brand, but a global community of women in the outdoors.
To help achieve their goals, the brand remains dedicated to inclusivity and sustainability. For Halfdays to be even more accessible, the team exclusively revealed that later this year, they plan to roll out extended and inclusive sizing. “Even as a small brand, inclusive sizing is something that’s really important to us, from an accessibility standpoint and to continually push ourselves to have inclusive sizing”, explained Golda.
In regards to sustainability, the team is painstakingly dedicated to keeping their promises and improving their process. Halfdays is 100% vegan and their products and packaging are made from recycled materials. “Minimizing our impact on the environment is incredibly important to us, especially as an outdoor brand” explained the team. At every step of our production process, Halfdays seeks out sustainable, recycled and humane materials. We’re excited to continue expanding on our initiatives in this realm and working directly with our suppliers to continue to innovate in this space!
At the end of our Zoom interview, Golda explained, “there’s nothing wrong with saying you want to start [skiing] at 10 [am]. There’s nothing wrong with saying you only want to do a few runs and then you’re done,” explained Golda.
The team made it clear that they want people to feel good about what they’re wearing. The name “Halfdays” is a play on a half-day ski pass. “We’re all about taking it easy, sleeping in, eating waffles at the top of the mountain and having fun,” they explained. “We want beginners, professionals and everyone in between to feel welcome and invited to join the fun with Halfdays.”
“Unfailing optimism” is the way that Golda explained the way the team operates. “You have to keep pushing forward and we were always supporting each other as a really small team at the beginning, even when it was stressful. But now I look back and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Halfdays is headquarted in Denver, but they ship everywhere in the U.S. and Canada. Throughout the rest of this summer and into the fall, Halfdays will host events and pop-ups all over the country. They’re hosting their first community hike on July 31 with Approachable Outdoors and have an event on August 12 with F45 in Denver. More details can be found on the brand’s Instagram and on their website.