Brothers Andy and Jason Dorais are close beyond measure – they do just about everything together, including breaking speed ascent records on peaks throughout the U.S., while simultaneously completing their medical residencies in Utah. Recently, a family illness changed Jason’s plan to participate with the U.S. Ski Mountaineering Team and Andy went in his place while Jason stayed home to be with his wife. In this very personal, heart-wrenching piece, Andy talks about love, family, racing, and always keeping the big picture in mind.
Throughout the fall and winter, Jason and I trained to make the US Ski Mountaineering Team. Jason qualified at the National Championships, but I narrowly missed during the three qualifying races in early January. After all the dust had settled, I was the alternate for the 8 man team that consisted of John Gaston, Tom Goth, Marshall Thompson, Jason Dorais, Max Taam, Luke Nelson, Greg Ruckman, and Scott Simmons (Brian Wickenhauser had qualified but yielded his spot to Simmons). All the tickets were purchased and travel plans made. I was staying home.
Then, my brother’s wife got sick. She’s been sick and has been bravely battling a wretched case of cancer since being diagnosed last summer. All types of cancer are life altering and terrible but hers is advanced and quite serious. So far, she has risen to the occasion through surgery, chemo, and radiation, remaining charming and smiling through it all (more on her story here). She is a beautiful example of everything good in this world.
Jason has also been unshakable through this entire experience. In the last 45 days, he and Amanda have gotten married, moved, and been to the hospital uncountable times. He’s wrecked two cars, trained, raced, made the US team, worked the exhausting hours of a medical resident, and remained faithfully by his wife’s side as she has experienced what I’m sure are some of the deepest lows of her young life.
He’s made it look easy.
He’s teaching us all lessons in grace and love and life and in maintaining one’s priorities. I’ve always joked that I’ve raised him since we enjoy the same sports, are embarking on the same career path, and in general have the same interest, but now, he’s providing a great example not only to me and the rest of our family but to all who know him.
He called me in late January and asked if I wanted to go to France. I knew what that meant. As the alternate, I was the next up but I didn’t want to go at his expense and I definitely didn’t want to go if it meant that Amanda was getting sicker. I told him to wait and think about it, see if she got better.
A day or two later, an email from Jason to the entire national team popped up in my inbox that read:
“…She was doing pretty well and I had justified going (even got a ticket) but over the past week the chemo kind of destroyed her. We’ve been in and out of the hospital a few times and leaving to go screw around in Europe doesn’t seem right. I apologize that you’ll now have to deal with my dumb ass brother but if he acts up just remind him he was the alternate!”
He made the choice for me and with his blessing, I joined the team in Pelvoux, France on February 9th. I was wide eyed and jittery just to be in the high Alps with a chance to race the best in the world. I’m certainly not the fastest guy in the world (or Salt Lake or my own family for that matter), but I did my best to suffer to honor my brother who couldn’t make the trip and for Amanda, who less than a year ago ran a marathon with my wife but is now taking on a much bigger challenge than some puny race.
Now a couple weeks later, my trip to the Alps has passed like a fleeting dream, only I have pictures and new relationships and great memories. The US team did an admirable job, placing 9th with great contributions from all 16 members. I competed in the Teams Race, the Sprint Race, and the Vertical Race and overall was pleased with my performances. Between events, we all got a chance to cheer each other on, scout the courses, and sneak in a little ski mountaineering in some bigger terrain. Hopefully someday, I’ll be back with my family and with Jason and Amanda, skiing endless steep powder and eating chocolate croissants all day.
As for Jason and his wife, they have done really well in the interim. Perhaps she was strengthened by his presence, but she has been looking strong since I’ve been back. Or, perhaps she is just really proud of Jason for making a quick dash to Alpental to participate in Vertfest. Representing Outdoor Research and SCARPA, Jason handily won the ski mountaineering race on Saturday and then gave a clinic of advance ski mountaineering techniques on Sunday. He covered topics such as gear, transitions, rap anchors, and a few other secrets of the trade. I think some lucky folks will now have some new tricks to try out at home.
Up next (well, it was actually last weekend) is our big local race, the Powder Keg, and then we head to Crested Butte to race some of the best and fastest over the Elk Range to Aspen in the fabled Grand Traverse. Unfortunately, with all this travel and racing, we owe some time at work. But you can be certain that any chance we get, we’ll be having fun in the Wasatch mountains around Salt Lake, adventuring and training. Hope to see you all out there!