Dynamic Duo is a silly term used to describe grown men in tights. Yet it’s strangely appropriate for the brothers Dorais, Jason and Andrew, two midwesterners who’ve somehow transformed into speedfreak ski mountaineers based in Salt Lake City, who scale and descend peaks in record time, most often under the cover of night. By day, they’re both doctors, who are currently living out their residencies in emergency medicine. For the record, Andy is almost two years the senior, though they might as well be fraternal twins. While most of us speak in terms of days off, they converse in hours. If they have a few off, they’ll ski a peak in the morning before work; if they have 24 hours, they’ll drive to Wyoming and ski the Grand Teton. A whopping 48 hours gives them plenty of time to drive west and tag a little peak called Rainier. So how did this all come about? Let’s read on.
You’re midwestern boys. How did you get into climbing and skiing? What about them have such allure for you?
JASON: I remember our dad telling us stories about his climbing days in the Tetons back in the 70’s. He had a bunch of old slides and would give us slide shows every once in a while. We always loved it. Apart from the stories, he made a point of taking us out any chance he got. We never lived in a mountainous region but would take extended summer vacations every year to either the Pacific Northwest or New Hampshire. Wherever we were he would drag us up the local classic peaks. He always made us feel like we had accomplished something big and noteworthy. I think that was the start.
ANDY: We mostly grew up in Indiana and didn’t have a lot of opportunities to ski. After college we dove in full time, and spent a couple seasons at the resorts before heading out of bounds.
A friend of ours, Sam Inouye, took me backcountry skiing a bunch of times. He was a mentor of sorts, and continually got me into places that challenged me both mentally and physically. After some time, I thought I was developing some proficiency but then I met Sam’s older brother, Jared. He was ahead of the game, skiing real mountains on race gear and covering huge vertical and distances. Our relationship really accelerated the learning curve, and we have been regular partners since.
JASON: We spent a few seasons in the resort and almost gave up on skiing. All the things about climbing that we loved—adventure, going into the unknown, exposure, solitude—were missing. This all changed when Sam took Andy into the backcountry. While they were exploring the Utah backcountry, I was still in med school in Indiana. After hearing their stories and seeing their pictures, I spent more time day dreaming and researching backcountry skiing than I did studying medicine. On one of my weeks off I came back to Utah, and Andy showed me a glimpse of the backcountry. I instantly became obsessed.
The both of you competed in track in college. Did that translate to moving fast in the mountains? How did you get the desire?
JASON: The desire to compete against one’s self and others that we learned while running track is certainly one of those factors, but I don’t think it’s the main one. If anything, track taught us how to work out and become faster. Jared Inouye opened our eyes to what’s possible in the mountains given a little speed. Seeing the massive days he and his crew were pulling off was mind blowing. We were inspired to link peaks and ski lines like he was doing, and moving fast was part of that.
ANDY: Our first climb of the Grand Teton took 18 hours or so, and was utterly exhausting. But we were super proud of our accomplishment of having done it in a day. We wanted to become proficient, so we could do bigger things and chase that feeling of success on objectives that seemed just out of reach. Our imaginations are pretty active too, and we think about being fast enough to link up multiple peaks, attempt a speed record on some classic lines, or traverse a whole range.
How do two med school residents find time to balance personal lives, raise children, and still spend so much time in the mountains?
ANDY: I sacrifice sleep at times. But one of the real secrets is the incredible access from SLC. We can be skinning up toward some legitimately inspiring terrain in 10 minutes from where we live. And, in the summer there are multiple “foothills” with 3-4000 feet of vertical gain that are a ten-minute drive away. Our erratic schedule as ER residents helps too. We work swing and night shifts, which frees up more daylight hours. And then I have a really supportive wife.
JASON: Finding time as a resident isn’t always easy. A few months out of the year we work 80 hours a week. It’s horrible. We sacrifice sleep more than anything to get into the mountains.
The biggest reward I think is the constant satisfaction that comes from being in the mountains all the time. I don’t quite feel right without that. I have the feeling that if I run or ski, the rest of the day will be fine no matter what.
You had a 48-hour “window” this summer, including drive time from SLC, to climb and ski Rainier?
ANDY: Yep. Sometimes we get ideas in our stubborn heads that we just can’t shake. We tried to climb and ski Rainier as fast as we could while still being safe (glacier gear with rope, harness, etc.) and managed to do so in 5 hours. The driving to skiing ratio wasn’t too good on that one.
JASON: …And I’d do it again given the chance. We were both about to start a bad month so we figured we had to get out of town and do something. I’m pretty sure I daydreamed about Rainier more than I should have during that next month.
Do the two of you feed off one another? How? Does it lead to a stronger bond between the two of you?
ANDY: We work well together after so many years. We think alike and have similar interests. However, we have always been competitive with each other, racing on the track through high school and now in the mountains. It’s good though, and I’d say we are both stronger for it.
JASON: Absolutely. Our competitive nature leads us to push one another to do more. There are a ton of days when I get off work and just want to go home and eat or sleep but knowing Andy has gone for a run or been in the mountains forces me out the door. Working hard like that is part of being a good partner. If we’re going to be a team in the mountains then I’m going to make sure I’m doing all I can to not hold us back.
What SCARPA products are you keen on and why?
ANDY: The Alien boot series! They are perfectly built for fast climbing with the incredible articulation at the cuff, the short, rockered sole, and total weight of under 700 grams. They are also stiff, and can certainly drive a race ski, but we will be using them for all of our ski mountaineering, even with bigger skis.
Also, SCARPA is importing Ski Trab skis and we will be using the World Cup and Maestro for racing and mountaineering respectively. For powder days, I’m keen on picking up a pair of Volare skis.
JASON: As someone who enjoys moving efficiently in the mountains the Aliens just make sense. Comparing them to just about any other touring boot is like comparing mountaineering boots to running shoes. Which would you chose?
Do you think the aesthetics of ski mountaineering have changed over the last decade? How?
ANDY: Adventure is the main draw of ski mountaineering. There has been so much focus on “the down”, but getting to more technical terrain takes more than big skis. I think more folks are in it to see wild places and have an adventure. Powder is great, but Bill Briggs (first person to ski the Grand Teton—July 1971, who at the time had a fused hip) knew what life was about.
JASON: I think the improvement in the gear has greatly influenced the aesthetic. With boots like the Aliens, people are able to pull off linkups and tours that weren’t possible a few years ago. People are able to ski more than they previously could, isn’t that beautiful?