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Gurneys, Skinsuits, and Diapers

Talking risk, failure, and fatherhood with ski mountaineer Andy Dorais.

Salt Lake City ER doctor Andy Dorais is known for going hard and fast in the mountains with minimal gear. He’s represented the U.S. at the World Ski Mountaineering Championships, and with his brother, has climbed and skied the Grand Teton and Mount Rainier faster than anyone else—ever.

The speed record on Mount Rainier took a couple tries. Jason set the pace to start our last record attempt. I could tell it was faster than I could sustain for our sub-four hour goal. As we approached the summit rim, everyone there knew what we were up to and started cheering for us. My tongue was hanging out. All I could do was motion acknowledgement.

We almost had a couple major accidents. Jason fumbled his ski at one point, almost losing it into the abyss. On the way down, I buried my tips and somersaulted a couple times. But we managed to finish in three hours and 57 minutes.

It’s all about spending time in the mountains. To prepare we ski at resorts. In early winter when the snowpack is developing, we do intervals and long threshold sessions. But whenever it snows and conditions are good, we say screw that and go ski for fun.

Endurance athletes like Andreas Fransson and Killian Jornet inspire me. They use their training beyond the races, which are really fun but somewhat contrived. They apply a high level of fitness to bigger mountains and bigger goals. Maybe we’ll see how fast we could go up and down Denali. It allows us to compare ourselves to the fastest skiers out there.

Ski mountaineers Andy (left) and Jason Dorais celebrate after their speed record on Mount Rainer. Photos courtesy of Andy and Jason Dorais

We stay safe with the attitude that we have the next 30 years to ski this line. If it’s not right, it’s not right. We have a lot of discussions about whether or not we should keep going. If one of us is uncomfortable, the other respects that and supports it. We turn around. It’s not a big deal

Failure is good. We fail all the time. It inspires us to go back and think about how we can get faster. We’ve tried a link-up in the Tetons multiple times and we’ve only managed to ski the first peak over and over again.

We don’t have any ski projects planned for this season. I’m here with my newborn son Teague. Right now I’m trying to survive having two kids at home. —Matt Hart

Follow Andy’s adventures this winter at slcsherpa.blogspot.com, and check in on his brother at jasondorais.blogspot.com.

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