Posted December 5th, 2010
Photo by Dennis Curran
If ever there were a reason to grin about winter, it’s seeing someone ski by wearing one of Corinne Prevot’s Skida hats. Bright bubbles, fantastasmic flowers, popsicle swirls, and sparkling explosions of color, her hats and neckwarmers can be seen on snowy ski trails all over the world and at elite ski events such as the U.S. Senior Cross-Country Ski National Championships, the Nordic World Cup circuit, and the Alpine Europa Cup tour. From the elite athlete, who must wear team-issue clothing, to the fans of winter, who want to step outside of the catalogue image, a distinctive Skida hat is a way for each person to express his or her spirit and personality.
With her years of experience on both trail and slope, Corinne knew what skiers wanted. She grew up alpine skiing and racing with her family at little Ski Roundtop, near York, PA, where they live. Her father, Roger, was an alpine racer at Burke Mountain Academy and then Williams College. Her mother, Margie, skied cross-country at St. Lawrence University. But with three kids, it was easier to keep track of them on a small alpine mountain, so Corinne and her brothers spent weekends on the slopes and winter vacations at Burke Mountain. Corinne started at Burke Mountain Academy when she was in 8th grade, and graduated in 2009. She now skis for the Middlebury College Nordic ski team.
The idea for the first Skida hat came during a fall Nordic ski training camp in West Yellowstone, MT. “I had found some fun hats in a ski shop,” Corinne says. “They were cool and colorful, but were too big for my little head. I imagined all the stylish possibilities if I had my own collection. Who doesn’t coordinate their outfits when exercising?”
When she returned to Burke she found some lycra fabrics at a local craft store and played around with different designs until she made one that fit well and looked great. She made a few more, and a few more for her friends on the Burke Mountain Academy Nordic Team, and before she knew it, she was in business. As the BMA team travelled around the eastern and national race circuit, the hats advertised themselves, and skiers would come up to Corinne and ask her to make a hat for them.
Orders quickly began coming in from skiers all around New England. Corinne and her mother had a production line going at the kitchen table. Almost all of the work is done on a sewing machine, except for the gathering at the top, which is done by hand, and they could make about 15 hats in two hours.
“We were not very efficient, but we had fun!” says Corinne. As more orders were submitted, she decided to turn her hobby into a full-fledged business. The name Skida appealed to her because, “I liked the simplicity of the word, and it is the old, traditional Swedish word for ‘ski’.” The first store to sell her hats was just down the road from the mountain—East Burke Sports. Then, through her connections with friends and family, stores from Idaho to Maine began carrying her creations.
What makes Skida hats unique are the wildly bold and colorful patterns. But there is no secret source for her material (yet). “The Internet has been my primary source for fabric,” says Corinne. “I have visited some of the fabric distributers’ warehouses in New York City to hand-pick some prints. Ordering fabric online is often just a big surprise. The pictures shown on the websites are not always accurate and it’s always exciting when a big fabric order comes in. When we come by a good print, we try to get a lot of it before it is sold out. Guy-friendly prints are often hard to find and we are always scouting for them. We always commend the men willing to make a bold statement while sporting a brightly colored Skida hat,” she adds.
While Corinne focuses on studies and skiing at Middlebury, mother Margie takes care of most accounting, sending prepared fabrics to sewers, and shipping orders. Professional seamstresses now do the sewing. But once she finishes school, Corinne has more plans for Skida.
“My dream is to see Skida expand into different geographical areas, new markets, and demographics beyond the Nordic skiing community of New England. Last year at Middlebury I took a class on Entrepreneurship during the short January term. I was able to get feedback and input from classmates and mentors. I also met a lot of Middlebury alumni who run their own businesses and they offered great advice and support. This coming January term I get to lead this class with two other students. This short term will give me the opportunity to help other students develop a business idea using what I’ve learned from my own development and experience with Skida.”
Corinne smiles, too, when she sees her hats ski by. “I love to see one of my hats on someone in a place that I would least expect. This summer I was grocery shopping in Ketchum, ID, and I walked by a woman wearing a Skida headband.”
See for yourself what everyone is grinning about. Visit www.SkidaSport.com. In addition to the Nordic hats and headbands Corinne now offers fleece-lined hats, neck-warmers, and the Skida Bandana. Her creations can also be found at the following sporting goods stores in Vermont, as well as shops in New Hampshire, New York, Wisconsin, and Idaho.
Clearwater Sports, Waitsfield
East Burke Sports, East Burke
Mountain Cycology, Ludlow
Onion River Sports, Montpelier
The Start House Ski and Bike, Woodstock
The Village Sport Shop, Lyndonville
Stowe Ski Resort, Stowe
Equipe Sports, Stratton
Dorcas Wonsavage, now a Masters racer, skied cross-country at Middlebury College. She and her husband, Paul Wonsavage, D.D.S, and their son Max live in Hanover, NH.