The Quality Makers: Ariana Ferwerda, Karelle Golda, and Kiley McKinnon of Halfdays

Welcome to The Quality Makers, an interview series highlighting pioneers in the direct-to-consumer space. Join us as we get an inside look at the world of digital shopping through the eyes of the individuals shaping it…

Female-founded ski brand Halfdays is a favorite this season and always. Thoughtful design and fantastic insulation make the brand a winner. Add in funky colors and recycled materials? We’re sold. This warm, stylish, and bright ski brand is making a splash in a ski market that — let’s face it – has been mostly geared towards men. Plus, it’s one of the few brands that actually has inclusive sizing for all body types and sizes. From base layers to bibs, Halfdays has it all.

While frequenting mountain towns like Jackson Hole, Vail, and Park City, Halfdays’ three founders Ariana Ferwerda, Karelle Golda, and Kiley McKinnon noticed a distinctive lack of ski gear that considered women. So, they met in Denver to build a community of women who love snow sports.

Ferwerda, Golda, and McKinnon launched Halfdays to be a joyous and intentionally un-intimidating brand. Go as hard or as easy as you want during your ski days – just get out there! Discover the story behind the brand, what differentiates it from others, and what its founders are looking forward to in this Quality Makers feature. 

Kiley in the Rosé set. Credit: Kiley McKinnon

Let’s start with the story. What inspired you to create Halfdays?

Kiley: I spent 8 years of my life professionally skiing, and after competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics in “unisex” ski wear, I was determined to see a change in the outdoor industry. After meeting my co-founders Ariana and Karelle, I realized that I wasn’t alone in this frustration. 

Ski wear is often designed for men first, then altered slightly to fit women’s bodies, which ultimately results in ill-fitting pieces. We were inspired to create a brand that puts women first, with a vision to motivate and encourage women of all levels (from the athlete to the one-run-and-done apèrs-er) to feel good about getting out on the mountain.

What are your professional backgrounds? 

Ariana: We all came from really different professional backgrounds. I worked as a consultant for Fortune 100 retail companies, Karelle worked in growth marketing in the DTC fashion and beauty space, and Kiley was an Olympic skier. All of us bring unique perspectives to the company! 

The Halfdays phone leash is a lifesaver.
Pictured here in the Lawrence Jacket in Espresso

What makes Halfdays different?

Ariana: At every stage of our company – from product development to brand voice – the women who buy our products have been at the forefront of everything we do. At this point, we’ve spoken to thousands of women who’ve told us that not only is fashion and fit lacking but also approachability. What makes Halfdays different is not only creating products made for women by women but also creating a community where everyone feels welcome to join the fun, whether they’re an Olympian or a recreational skier. 

How helpful has your ski background been to Halfdays?

Kiley: My ski background has been very helpful in specifically the product side of Halfdays. My experience has helped me to understand the technical necessities of how our product should perform as well as the need for it to properly fit a woman's body. 

You can wear the Johnson base layers year-round!
Credit: @katiejryder.

You recently started a Slack channel to build the Halfdays community. (Spoiler alert: I’m in it.) What are your main goals for the platform?

Karelle: The industry is notoriously unapproachable, and so many people have told us that they’ve experienced feeling “not skilled enough” or lacking the proper experience to be a part of a certain activity or community. Our goal is to break down this barrier and make women feel empowered and welcome. Over our Slack, women of all ski abilities can find friends, ask questions and contribute to our product development in a deeper way. Ideally we hope that it  acts as a resource for women when they’re looking to get into a new sport, wanting a recommendation for new skis, or just to connect with other women to get outdoors with! 

@jeniesbloc in the Olive colorway base layers 

What’s your favorite mountain?

Karelle: This one is easy for me because I live in Jackson Hole. It’s a unique place with so much variety in terms of terrain!

Kiley: I spent a lot of my time training in Utah so I’d have to say either Deer Valley or Park City Mountain. I try to visit as much as possible, especially during the winter!

Ariana: I’m happy anytime I can escape Denver and drive up to Vail. It’s such a beautiful mountain and has a great après scene.

Brightening the slopes.
Credit: Kendra Sonia

What other DTC products are you loving?

Ariana: I love the sunglasses brand Vehla, they’re my go-to for après ski. I’m also a skin care fanatic and have recently been loving Dieux Skin, they make an incredible reusable eye mask that is both sustainable and chic. 

Karelle: I just received a bouquet from Fresh Sends, a DTC gifting company – the packaging and experience blew me away (plus they are also based in Denver!). 

Kiley: I absolutely love Mejuri. I wear the brand’s jewelry almost every day. 

Skiing’s currently having a big moment at the Winter Olympics. What’s your favorite event to watch (or partake in)?

Kiley: I think it probably comes as no surprise that aerials is my favorite event to watch! Having competed in aerials at the 2018 Winter Olympics, I still feel a strong connection to not only the sport but the athletes that are competing. Many of them are old teammates and friends that I traveled the world with for years. It makes watching the sport that much more exciting for me!

All blue, all day.
Credit: Taiwo O.

Any big predictions for the Games?

Kiley: I definitely think an athlete to watch at these games is Eileen Gu. She is competing in three different freestyle ski events and has already won gold in one of them! She has the very strong potential of winning gold in all three and I predict that it will happen. Oh and did I mention that she is only 18 years old!

Interested in joining the Halfdays community? The brand’s gear is to-die-for: technical, sustainable, and actually flattering to women! This Slack channel has the same goal of making skiing less intimidating, sparking friendships from the slopes to aprés. Keep up with the brand on Instagram to discover colors, styles, and meetups coming soon.

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