March 5, 2013

Lost skier's rescue on Tuesday aided by wits, greeted with relief and thanks

By Kaitlin Schroeder
Staff Writer

and Matt Hongoltz-Hetling
Staff Writer

and Amy Calder
Staff Writer

CARRABASSETT VALLEY — Without a cellphone or a helmet, Nicholas Joy got off the Timberline chairlift with his father at the Sugarloaf ski area Sunday afternoon and skied to the top of Binder trail at the mountain summit.

click image to enlarge

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

Staff photo by David Leaming

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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Within hours, he would be lost and hunkering down to survive two frigid winter nights on the mountain.

As visibility clouded amid wind and snow, the 17-year-old skier from Massachusetts accidentally veered off the trail. With daylight faded and no trails in sight, Joy knew what he had to do.

It's not clear whether it was his father's advice about getting lost, or inspiration from watching "Survivor" and other survival-type shows, or both, but Joy decided to make a shelter. He created what game wardens would later call a "snow cave" near the 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 alertness 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. He rose from his cave and searched around.

By Tuesday morning, tired and hungry, Joy ventured from his cave 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.

The foray led him to his savior, Joseph Paul, a fellow Massachusetts resident with a camp nearby who 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., Paul spotted Joy in the distance.

Joy, relieved and exhausted, was hungry. Paul gave him the snacks he had on his snowmobile: peanuts and crackers.

Paul alerted searchers and drove Joy four miles back to a waiting crowd at the intersection of the trail and U.S. Route 27.

Looking pale but walking steadily, Joy was led from the snowmobile by a crowd of wardens, rescuers and Carrabassett Valley Police Chief Mark Lopez to an ambulance before being taken to Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington. Joy was rehydrating with a bottle of water and appeared to be in a daze.

"I'm OK, I'm just tired," Joy said, before entering the ambulance.

Speeding to the scene in his sport-utility vehicle, Joy's father, Bob Joy, drove the SUV into a snowbank, got out and rushed inside the ambulance to join his son. The boy's mother joined the reunion soon after. He went to the hospital, where he was accompanied by family and treated to a cheeseburger and french fries.


Survival shows and Dad

The compelling narrative emerged in pieces Tuesday, as family and rescuers said they were stunned by Joy's miraculous survival after the unsafe wintry conditions dampened hopes that the skier would be found as the search entered its third day.

Nicholas Joy, of Medford, Mass., said he likes to watch survival shows on television and that may be how he learned to make the snow cave, said Sugarloaf General Manager John Diller. Joy apparently was a fan of the popular television series "Survivor," which may have helped him to be resourceful enough to build a snow cave and stay hydrated, according to Roy E. Belson, superintendent of Medford, Mass., Public Schools, where Nicholas is a high school senior.

Joy's brother, Mike, said outside the hospital Tuesday that his brother sometimes watches Discovery channel programming though he's "more of an ESPN guy." He credited Nicholas' survival strategies to advice from his father, Robert.

"I think it was more that his father told him, 'If you ever get lost, just hunker down and let them find you,'" Mike said.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

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

click image to enlarge

click image to enlarge

Seventeen-year-old Nicholas Joy is surrounded by game wardens and others that brought him out of the woods Tuesday. Joy spent two night lost in the woods near Sugarloaf ski area. 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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