Picture Diary: REI x HOKA at UTMB

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REI staffers traveled to the French Alps to affix HOKA for the 2023 Extremely-Path du Mont-Blanc, extremely working’s final bucket-list race.

This summer time, REI staffers Fan Zhou, Emily Frugé, Jeffrey Schmidt and Kailee Esser traveled to Chamonix, France, for the 2023 Extremely-Path du Mont-Blanc, sponsored by HOKA. The race, generally referred to as UTMB®, is an historic path ultramarathon that serves as a bucket-list problem for beginner and elite ultra-runners from world wide.

One of the crucial difficult programs a path runner can sort out, the UTMB® course stretches throughout 171 kilometers (about 106 miles) of the French, Swiss and Italian Alps, with 10,000 meters (practically 33,000 ft) of elevation achieve.

On the base in Chamonix, Zhou, Frugé and Esser—representing totally different departments at REI from merchandising to vendor partnerships—joined leaders at HOKA (a model based in 2009 in Annecy, France, not removed from Chamonix) to absorb the sights and sounds whereas sharing a love of working with the neighborhood of contributors and spectators gathered within the mountains. Right here’s what they noticed.

HOKA Basecamp at UTMB can be seen at the base of a mist-covered mountain.

It was spectacular to witness the presence of HOKA all through Chamonix main as much as UTMB. From the seller village to bar and eating places, you could possibly really feel how the model has exploded in attain whereas managing to remain true to its roots, “born within the Alps.”

Kailee Esser, program supervisor, strategic vendor partnerships at REI


The view from a run on the Grand Balcon Nord Path, which runs parallel however greater than 3,000 ft above the city of Chamonix. This a part of the path is close to one of many many refugios that dot the Alps. Like huts or cabins alongside path techniques within the U.S., refugios present shelter and meals to hikers, skiers and runners alike.

Fan Zhou, common supervisor, exercise and merch technique for Run and Footwear

A view of the mountainous landscape with a small white building with red shutters in the foreground.

Four people pose smiling in front of a mountain view together.

REI staffers go on a hike in Mer de Glace, the mountains above Chamonix.

From left to proper: Kailee Esser, Emily Frugé (senior class supervisor, Run footwear and Health arduous items), Fan Zhou and Jeffrey Schmidt (purchaser, Path Run footwear and Health arduous items)

Picture credit score: Emily Frugé


We have been so lucky to spend time with HOKA co-founder Nico Mermoud (heart), sharing a view of the race’s namesake and the Alps’ highest summit, Mount Blanc. It was surreal listening to Nico’s ski tales as he identified the strains he’s ridden.

Kailee Esser

Five people face the camera smiling, standing in front of a mountain view.

A HOKA display at the race village.

HOKA footwear have been all over the place, sported by race attendees, guests and athletes. Right here, HOKA shows its rough-terrain max-cushion possibility, the Stinson 7.

Picture credit score: Kailee Esser


What an adrenaline rush to be part of the energetic crowd ready for these unimaginable athletes to cross the end line! It was thrilling to think about what they endured over 100+ miles and to cheer them on as they lastly reached the tip.

Emily Frugé

The finish line at the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc

A professional athlete in a yellow technical shirt and black hydration vest high-fives spectators after crossing the finish line.

The indomitable Courtney Dauwalter grabs some high-fives after crossing the end line. Capping off a yr of first-place finishes in main ultras, she received the ladies’s race.

Fan Zhou


Ready on the end line, the announcers made it clear that Jim Walmsley had pulled forward to first place and was about to be the first American male winner in UTMB’s historical past—and a HOKA athlete, no much less! Watching Jim come down the end line is a second I’ll always remember: the dramatic music, screaming followers, and camaraderie of the group celebrating this particular second for Jim and the complete HOKA crew.

Emily Frugé

Picture courtesy of HOKA

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