Justin Dorey Announces Retirement

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Photo by Bryan Ralph

In the world of freeskiing, there are countless individuals who have made waves throughout their long or still blossoming careers. Those who have turned heads, lined their snow pants with prize money, and made a name for themselves along the way. 

Justin Dorey has always been so much more than that. To hail him as unique, or special, simply wouldn’t do him justice. In so many ways, and for so many years, he's been a cut above the rest, and is commonly hailed by his peers, fans, fellow competitors and the freeskiing industry at large as one of, if not the best halfpipe skier to ever live.

Dorey has never shied away from skiing with a go-for-broke mentality, and as a result, has been in some respects the embodiment of Ricky Bobby in freeskiing: “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” He never opted for the easy route. He never settled for second-best. And he never, ever half-assed it. He stayed true to his principles, and reached for the stars. And that attitude, combined with a beyond impressive level of athletic ability, and a refreshing and unwavering humble demeanour, produced not only some of the most influential and exciting triumphs in the world of halfpipe skiing, but also one of the toughest and finest athletes and human beings in the history of the sport.

But the bumps, bruises and brutal injuries that many would never stand up from, let alone walk away from, also came at a cost. So today, with a heavy heart, but no regrets, Dorey announced his retirement from competitive freeskiing via the bittersweet letter below. 

On behalf of everyone at Forecast, the freeskiing community as a whole, and anyone who’s had the pleasure of spending time with Dorey, whether it be on or off the slopes: thank you Justin. Your contributions to the sport will never been forgotten, and while we’ll miss watching you do what you do best on the mountain and in the pipe, like you’ve done so many times in the past when you set your mind to something, we know you’ll succeed in any and all of your future endeavours. Good luck, and much love. —JEFF SCHMUCK

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Justin Dorey with his father Peter. Photo by Bryan Ralph
At age 12, I’d just gotten braces, started listening to Eminem, and was blowing minds at elementary school with my fashion game… bleached, spiked, hair, pukka shell necklace, Hawaiian shirt, and cargo shorts. Y2K was a good year for me. Most importantly though, this was the year I watched MSP’s Ski Movie for the first time and decided what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

I was going be a “pro skier”. Just like the guys in the movie. So, obviously, the first thing I did the following day after watching that movie was build a jump to get started on becoming the next Tanner Hall. After I put the finishing touches on the two-foot tall mega-booter, it was game-time. Fast-forward an hour later, and I’m laid out on a stretcher with my front teeth smashed out, bleeding profusely, and heading to the hospital. At that moment, laying down on the stretcher, choking on a nice, warm mouthful of blood, I wondered if maybe I should let T-Hall off the hook and stick with something I was good at. Fortunately, I wasn’t good at much back then. So the next weekend my dad and I agreed that I would sign up for the Silver Star Freestyle Club and stick to the plan. That turned out to be the best decision of my life.

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X Games Aspen 2014. Photo by Christian Pondella / ESPN Images
The fifteen years following that decision have been filled with the highest highs and lowest lows I ever could have imagined. There have been plenty more mouthfuls of blood, stretcher rides, and trips to the hospital. Seven years after watching that ski movie, I got to share my first podium with T-Hall himself at the Dew Tour, and that was just the beginning. Many dreams came true for that naive little kid from Vernon.

Skiing has been good to me. The more I’ve put into it the more it has given back. It has given me friends who became family, and a community that has shown me nothing but love and respect, even when I felt I let everyone down countless times over the years. There have been good times and bad times. Setbacks and comebacks. High hopes and heartbreaks. There have been a lot of things along the way, but there has never been a plan B. I knew what I was signing up for since my first trip to the hospital. It was “do or die” since day one. That type of mindset has taken me to some incredible places, but it has also taken its toll. I say this with absolutely no regrets. The physical beatings I’ve taken over the years have been well worth the trade-offs. I’ve been fortunate that most of my body has lasted this long.

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Photo by Gabriel Christus / ESPN Images
But the hits to the head have caught up to me. I’ve probably had between 10-15 concussions. The first few were a lot different than the last few, and with each consecutive hit to the head over the years, it has taken me longer and longer to recover from even the slightest of impacts. My last concussion was over a year ago from hitting a rope swing into a lake. All it took was my head slapping the water to put me out of commission for a year. The fact that this recovery is taking as long as it has—and I’m still not 100%—has lead me to make one of the toughest decisions I’ll ever make.

It’s time to hang it up.

I’ve finally come to terms with retiring, but I’m not going to lie to you: I’m going to miss this shit. I’ve broken into tears a few times while writing this, but not the type of tears I would have expected. Looking back and reflecting on everything that’s happened, I realized that I’m the luckiest damn guy in the world. That 12-year-old kid on the stretcher 15 years ago got to live his dream because he was in the right place at the right time, surrounded by the right people. Emphasis on “the right people.”

This life has literally been a dream come true for me. From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank everyone who’s had my back along the way, whether that meant cheering me on from the bottom of the halfpipe, or from the other side of a TV screen. I felt the love, and you guys really brought the best out of me. Thank you. —JUSTIN DOREY

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