Ski gear needs to be the perfect blend of warm and technically functional. But fashionable? That’s long been a low priority for brands in the male-dominated outdoors industry. Just ask former pro freestyle skier Kiley McKinnon, who took her talents to the slopes for Team U.S.A. at the Olympics in 2018 … while wearing an ill-fitting uniform designed for men. Just as the vast majority of the ski jackets and pants on the market are. The gear may be practical and high-tech, but on a woman’s body, it’s also bulky, baggy and difficult to maneuver in—not to mention totally unflattering. So McKinnon made it her mission to change things—and introduce fun and fashion to function. She moved to Denver and cofounded Halfdays along with Ariana Ferwerda, a retail consultant, and growth marketing expert Karelle Golda. Together the gang is saying bye-bye to the boys club of ski gear. Halfdays is an outdoor apparel brand designed by women, for women that took over the Instagram feeds of the cool women in your life in late 2020. Their biggest problem so far: keeping up with the extremely high demand for their products that are too cute to live or ski without.
“I retired from competitive skiing after the 2018 Olympics,” says McKinnon when we sat down to talk about the brand. “I miss the competing aspect but I don’t miss the sport itself. It was very physically and emotionally draining, specifically freestyle aerials like I was competing in. It affected my love of skiing for a little while. Starting Halfdays and being able to get out on the mountain with friends and not have to take it too seriously has revamped that love that was lost for a little.” McKinnon hopes her brand can inspire and empower other women to get out there as well.
Ski gear is finally seeing the revolution that gym clothes underwent in recent years, and the philosophy is simple: make the athletic wear cute and you will want to workout. Designing fashion-forward ski gear could have the same impact on women disenfranchised with a sport that’s laden with hardcore outdoor culture and ill-fitting apparel that cramps your style. Vogue notes, “Skiwear has seemingly become the new frontier for high fashion.” Looking forward to your layers might just be the thing that pulls you out of bed in the morning and into the lift line.
Halfdays’ product line centers on snow jackets and pants that are as fashionable and flattering as they are functional, with features like a phone leash, pass pockets and goggle wipe built right in. Available in a rainbow of bright, bold colors and chic neutrals in extended sizes (up to 2XL), Halfdays’ gear is vegan, made from recycled products, has everything you need and nothing that you don’t, and most importantly, it’s chic as hell. The Aston Jacket is perhaps the most fashion-forward of the line with a flattering belt and hourglass figure.
“I am normally a very cold person,” McKinnon says, “so I opt for our insulated ski pants like the Alessandra Pant, but recently, on a sunny day, I skied in our Georgie Puffer Jacket and the Emma Soft Shell Pant, and I never felt cuter.”
Halfdays’ range of products will have you covered for everything from your warmest layers to your best spring ski fit. The soft shell pants, while not insulated, have a fleece lining to keep you warm, but a tighter legging fit for that flattering on-mountain look. The Georgie Jacket is extremely adaptable with a removable powder skirt and hood as well as drawstrings that allow you to fasten a more cropped fit. “Mostly our fashion inspiration is minimalist streetwear. For a lot of the colors, especially our neutrals, Arianna, Karelle and I would look in our closets to see what our favorite everyday clothing colors are and then incorporate that into our line.”
Exteriors are ultra wind and water resistant and buttery smooth while interiors are soft and sweat wicking. All the gear has a 10,000mm waterproof rating and YKK AquaGard zippers, fully taped seams to prevent any moisture from encroaching on your comfort, and a soft fleece tricot fabric lining on every part of the pants and jacket that might touch your skin like the neck of the jacket or the waist of the pant. The base layers are seamless, which allows them to be not only more environmentally conscious but also incorporate other fabrics into the garment like adding breathable mesh under the arms and on the calves.
The products are designed to perform technically on-mountain and transition into a woman’s everyday winter wardrobe. Especially the newly released Essentials Collection featuring items like the Nellie Packable Puffer Jacket, which packs into a pillow for travel, or the Pieper Fleece, which is softer than any fleece I have felt before. These along with Halfdays Ski Club old-school-inspired merch like sweatshirts and socks are perfect for your post-ski look or to transition you on and off the mountain.
The names of the products in all of Halfdays’ garments are inspired by badass women making noise in the outdoor industry. Inside of the jackets, you will find a panel detailing who your jacket is named after so you can carry them with you down every run like a built-in buddy. For example, inside the Lawrence Jacket reads “This jacket was inspired by Andrea Mead Lawrence, a record-holding Olympian, environmental activist and all-around badass.”
If you’re wary, we feel you: we know the struggle to find the right ski pants and picture-perfect parkas are oh so real. Halfdays gets it, too, so they’re popping up in Denver this winter at 1641 Market St. through February (the products are also available at Bloomingdales, Nordstroms, Backcountry, and Madewell) so you can try on the styles IRL and find the one that will take you from the powder to the parties in high style.
I am what some might call “fun sized,” so if brands don’t carry pants specifically marked “short,” I worry. McKinnon, on the other hand, says her long arms used to be her obstacle in shopping for ski clothes before exclusively wearing her own brand. Luckily, all of Halfdays pants come in regular and short (long may not be far behind) and feature lots of adjustable waist bands, storm cuffs and drawstrings.
Halfdays has even gone a few steps further to help create a community of passionate female skiers. On its website, you’ll find a blog section that gives recommendations on other gear like helmets and goggles and advice on where to ski and stay. They even have a slack channel, The Halfday Chalet, with over 700 members that are constantly chatting about ski conditions, helping people find a ski buddy for the day, and organizing mountain meetups. The brand really values these communities, even having them test the gear and give feedback, because they don’t think testing and improving gear should be reserved for elite skiers—everyone’s input is welcome here.