March 6, 2013

Lost skier in Maine: 'I'm OK, I'm just tired'

After two frigid nights alone on Sugarloaf, and amid a massive search effort, teenager Nicholas Joy follows tracks to where a snowmobiler finds him.

By Kaitlin Schroeder, Matt Hongoltz-Hetling and Amy Calder / Morning Sentinel

CARRABASSETT VALLEY — Without a cellphone, Nicholas Joy got off the Timberline chairlift with his father Sunday afternoon and skied to the top of the Binder trail, near the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain.

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Missing skier Nicholas Joy, 17, of Medford, Mass., is led to an ambulance Tuesday morning after spending two nights lost near the Sugaloaf ski area.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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Within hours, he would be lost and hunkering down to survive two frigid nights in the wilderness.

With poor visibility in wind and snow, the 17-year-old skier from Medford, Mass., accidentally veered off the ski trail. In faded daylight, with no trails in sight, Joy knew what he had to do.

He created what game wardens would later call a "snow cave" near Carrabassett Stream, where he would drink fresh water.

He slept a lot as he huddled in his shelter of branches and ice, but he also listened. That paid off Monday, as a growing army of game wardens, police and other rescuers scoured the mountain and the sounds of snowmobile engines echoed through the forest.

Joy rose from his shelter and searched around.

By Tuesday morning, tired and hungry, he ventured from his shelter again and hunted for signs of the snowmobiles he had heard. He came upon snowshoe tracks and followed them for more than a mile to Caribou Pond Road.

That foray led him to his savior.

Joseph Paul, a fellow Massachusetts resident with a camp nearby, had decided to hop on his snowmobile and scout the area for the missing teenager he'd heard about from news reports. At 9 a.m., he spotted Joy in the distance.

Paul gave him the snacks he had on his snowmobile: peanuts and crackers.

He alerted searchers and drove Joy four miles back to a waiting crowd at Route 27.

Looking pale but walking steadily, Joy was led from the snowmobile to an ambulance by wardens, rescuers and Carrabassett Valley Police Chief Mark Lopez. He was rehydrating with a bottle of water and appeared to be dazed.

"I'm OK, I'm just tired," he said before getting into the ambulance.

Speeding to the scene in his sport utility vehicle, Joy's father, Robert Joy, drove into a snowbank, got out and rushed into the ambulance to join his son. The boy's mother joined the reunion soon afterward.

Joy was taken to Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington, where he was accompanied by his family and treated to a cheeseburger and french fries.

His family and rescuers said they were stunned by his survival, in harsh winter conditions that dampened hopes that he would be found as the search entered its third day.


Joy said he likes to watch survival shows on television, and that may be what led him to make the snow cave, said John Diller, general manager of Sugarloaf Mountain Resort.

Outside the hospital, Joy's brother, Mike, credited Nicholas' survival strategy to advice from his father: "If you ever get lost, just hunker down and let them find you."

Mike said he feared the worst because it seemed unlikely that his brother, an experienced skier, would have gotten lost.

"He knows that the way was just to the right that he had to go, but he couldn't find a trail," he said.

He said his first contact with his brother after the rescue was a "very emotional," silent hug.

Joy's father, Robert, and mother, Donna, released a statement Tuesday afternoon saying they were relieved and happy that their son had "made it through this difficult ordeal."

"We want to thank everyone for their hopes and prayers and especially members of the rescue" team that included eight agencies, the statement said. "Nicholas is doing well and his family would like the public to respect our privacy during this time of healing."

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Donna Joy becomes emotional as she reflects on the two days her son Nicolas Joy, 17, was missing on Sugarloaf Mountain as she speaks to media at the Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington on Tuesday.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

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Bob Joy, father of missing skier Nicholas Joy, arrives at the site where his son was brought out by snowmobile Tuesday morning. At left is Carrabassett Valley police officer Randy Walker.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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Nicholas Joy

Photo courtesy of Maine Warden Service

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Seventeen-year-old Nicholas Joy is surrounded by game wardens and others who brought him out of the woods Tuesday. At right is Joseph Paul who picked up Joy on the snowmobile and at left is Carrabassett Valley police chief Mark Lopez.

Staff photo by David Leaming


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