Photo Diary: REI x HOKA at UTMB


REI staffers traveled to the French Alps to hitch HOKA for the 2023 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, extremely operating’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 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, sponsored by HOKA. The race, generally generally known as UTMB®, is an historic path ultramarathon that serves as a bucket-list problem for newbie and elite ultra-runners from world wide.

One of probably the most 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 toes) of elevation achieve.

At the bottom in Chamonix, Zhou, Frugé and Esser—representing completely 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 operating with the neighborhood of members and spectators gathered within the mountains. 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 possibly can really feel how the model has exploded in attain whereas managing to remain true to its roots, “born in the Alps.”

Kailee Esser, program supervisor, strategic vendor partnerships at REI

The view from a run on the Grand Balcon Nord Trail, which runs parallel however greater than 3,000 toes 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, basic 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 Fitness exhausting items), Fan Zhou and Jeffrey Schmidt (purchaser, Trail Run footwear and Fitness exhausting items)

Photo credit score: Emily Frugé

We have been so lucky to spend time with HOKA co-founder Nico Mermoud (middle), 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 sneakers have been in all places, sported by race attendees, guests and athletes. Here, HOKA shows its rough-terrain max-cushion choice, the Stinson 7.

Photo credit score: Kailee Esser

What an adrenaline rush to be part of the energetic crowd ready for these unbelievable 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 top.

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

Waiting 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 gang celebrating this particular second for Jim and all the HOKA crew.

Emily Frugé

Photo courtesy of HOKA


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