March 4, 2013

Sugarloaf rescuers search for lost teen skier

By KAITLIN SCHROEDER Morning Sentinel

CARRABASSETT VALLEY — A 17-year-old skier from Massachusetts remained missing at the Sugarloaf Mountain Resort on Monday night, more than 24 hours after he was last seen near the top of the mountain.

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Maine Warden Service Lt. Kevin Adams, right, answers questions about the search for Nicholas Joy, of Medford, Mass., during a press conference Monday in Carrabassett Valley. At left is Richard Wilkinson, vice president of mountain operations at Sugarloaf, where the 17-year-old was last seen Sunday.

Staff photo by Kailin Schroeder

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Nicholas Joy

Photo provided by Maine Warden Service

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The Maine Warden Service said the search for Nicholas Joy of Medford, Mass., began after the teenager's father reported him missing Sunday afternoon.

Lt. Kevin Adams, coordinator of the search, said during a news conference Monday that fresh snow and winds as strong as 40 mph covered any tracks that Joy may have left Sunday.

"Any clues he would have left on top of that mountain are gone," Adams said.

Wardens and Sugarloaf's ski patrol searched in-bounds and out-of-bounds areas on skis, snowshoes and snowmobiles from Sunday afternoon until 1:30 a.m. Monday, and resumed the search at first light.

Adams said the search would resume early Tuesday.

Temperatures in the area overnight Sunday were in the mid-20s, with light snow. Similar conditions were expected Monday night, according to the National Weather Service.

Joy is a competent skier who had skied at Sugarloaf multiple times, Adams said.

He skied all morning Sunday with his father, who last saw him at 12:40 p.m. on the Timberline chairlift, which approaches Sugarloaf's 4,237-foot summit.

They agreed to take separate trails and meet at the bottom of an intermediate slope, Adams said. The run would have taken about 15 to 20 minutes.

When Joy's father couldn't find his son, he told Sugarloaf's staff, which began the search and then alerted the warden service.

Adams said that when skiers get lost, the staff normally searches without alerting the warden search team and soon finds the missing people. Two or three groups have disappeared this year, he said, and staff members have found them.

Adams said that when wardens respond, they usually find missing skiers in certain out-of-bounds areas. But after searching those places for Joy, wardens had no clues about his whereabouts.

Because of poor visibility caused by the weather, wardens could not use an aircraft to search Monday so they had to rely on a ground search, Adams said.

The search was complicated by rugged terrain on the west side of the mountain.

Adams said a team of more than 40 wardens, Sugarloaf staffers and volunteers did hasty searches across a 400- to 500-acre area near the Timberline lift. The ski area covers a total of about 5,000 acres.

He said wardens tried to attract attention by using whistles and spotlights and yelling for the teenager.

Richard Wilkinson, vice president of mountain operations, said the trails are well marked with orange disks and tape, but sometimes skiers go outside the ski area's boundaries.

Adams said wardens don't have proof that Joy went off the marked trail, but skiers who stay within the boundaries are usually found within the time that has been spent on this search.

Joy is a senior at Medford High School, said Medford Superintendent Roy Belson.

Belson said Monday that Joy is in the thoughts and prayers of students and staff members, who appreciate the search effort by the ski patrol, wardens and others.

He said students have been asking questions and administrators have been talking with them about Joy.

"We're looking for answers ourselves," he said.

Belson said the students and staff would like to do something to help, recognizing that they can't be there to search for Joy.

He declined further comment, at the request of Joy's family, he said.

In a separate incident at the nearby Saddleback Maine ski resort near Rangeley, searchers found two skiers Monday morning who were reported missing Sunday, the Associated Press reported.

The warden service said the men went off the back side of the mountain and were found on a snowmobile trail. Their identities and conditions weren't immediately available.

-- Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Amy Calder contributed to this report.

Kaitlin Schroeder can be contacted at 861-9252 or at:

kschroeder@mainetoday.com

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