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What to Expect at the REI Outessa Summit for Women

A three-day weekend outdoor retreat, including trail running and other activities, wine, and making lifetime connections.

REI is sponsoring the first event series that focuses on outdoor education and recreation specifically organized for women. Hundreds of women will have the opportunity to participate in more than 200 outdoor activities, including trail running, led by 60-plus guides as part of a three-day experience, which also incorporates talks and guidance from female elite athletes of several disciplines.

The REI Outessa Summit aims to welcome newcomers, giving them a chance to explore different outdoor activities and sports, but at the same time appeal to longtime lovers of the outdoors in connecting with one another and building female camaraderie.

“When you get a group of women together, I typically find that when they see someone else is doing it, that they can do it too—it’s not out of the realm of possibility,” said Julia Stamps Mallon, co-founder and vice president of business development of the REI Outessa Summit, and longtime distance runner having competed in two U.S. Olympic Trials Marathons. “We really just want people to challenge themselves within their comfort levels and try something new.”

Originally when Mallon and her business partner/cofounder Bart Davis—who both previously worked at Destination Races—approached REI with the concept of Outessa, it mainly focused on trail running. But after many discussions the event expanded to more outdoor activities that would allow more accessibility and reflect the overlapping of interests in the outdoor sport scene.

The first two events of the summit will take place in Kirkwood Resort near Lake Tahoe, Calif., from Aug. 19-21, and in Powder Mountain near Salt Lake City, Utah, from Sept. 9-11. A variety of lodging from campsites to cabins, plus food and end-of-day libations are all included.

Depending on a registrant’s self-chosen schedule, the weekend could consist of a wide range of activities and classes such as camping, backpacking, kayaking, outdoor cooking, mountain biking, paddle boarding, climbing, yoga, hiking, etc. Mallon says each class will consist of 15 to 20 people and each activity will have differing levels of beginner, intermediate and advanced. At the end of each day, everyone comes back together again for a family-style dinner and then gathers around a campfire for wine and s’mores while listening to elite athletes share their stories.

One of those elites will be distance runner turned trail ultrarunner Magdalena Boulet, who competed in the 2008 Olympic Marathon and won last year’s Western States Endurance Run, her 100-mile debut race.

“Once we have an idea of final group count and levels of experience is when I sit down and design what’s appropriate for each person and just go from there,” said Boulet about how she’ll be leading the trail running classes at the Powder Mountain location. “It needs to be challenging enough where people can walk away from the experience and gain something very valuable, but you also want to make sure they come back, that it’s realistic and not discouraging. So it needs to be a fine balance.”

Besides athletes, Outessa participants will also have a chance to interact with several other sponsor brands, including prAna, Osprey, Salomon, GCI Outdoors, Stance, Picky Bars and Nuun, and have access to the sponsored equipment and gear for each activity. All that needs to be packed for the weekends are clothes and other essentials.

Registration opened on April 28 on the Outessa website, and will remain open until the 500 spots for each location are filled.

“After three days, Outessa women will find inspiration from their peers and from their own newfound abilities,” Mallon said in a press release. “We are excited to help them connect with the outdoors and each other during these unforgettable weekends.”