January 18, 2011

Family, friends mourn skier

CARRABASSETT VALLEY — More than 100 people gathered at a bonfire and candlelight vigil Monday night to mourn and honor 16-year-old Joshua Waldron, a junior at Carrabassett Valley Academy, who died Saturday from injuries he suffered in a skiing accident.

Joshua Waldron

Portland Press Herald photo

Waldron participated in the academy’s competitive freestyle skiing program, and was ranked as one of the best athletes on the team.

He was killed around noon Saturday after skiing into snow-making equipment along the Hayburner trail, which is designated as one of the most difficult on the Sugarloaf trail map, according to Ethan Austin, spokesman for the mountain.

Investigators believe he collided with a snow-making tower that is almost even with the tree line, Austin said.

The boy’s father, Scott Waldron, a ski instructor at Sugarloaf, was giving a lesson on another trail when the accident occurred.

Waldron said Monday that he learned of his son’s accident after reaching the bottom of the mountain.

Another instructor brought him to Sugarloaf’s first aid clinic, where Carrabassett Valley Police Chief Scott Nichols told him his son had died.

“It was surreal,” he said. “I’m still in a state of shock. It’s like I stepped out of my body and I’m watching this happen. You can’t know the feeling until it happens to you.”

Joshua Waldron grew up in Raymond and attended Jordan-Small Middle School. He began learning to ski when he was 3 years old, and set his sights on Carrabassett Valley Academy soon after.

In the seventh and eighth grade, Waldron participated in the academy’s weekend ski programs and enrolled full-time as a freshman. There, he excelled in freestyle skiing, mountain biking and academics.

His father said he was passionate about skiing and the culture that accompanies it.

“There’s something about being a part of this culture that draws you in,” his father said. “Josh got it from a very young age. He just knew what it meant to be a skier and what it meant to live this life.”

Mark Spinney, a student at the Sugarloaf-based school, is quoted in the obituary as calling Josh “the best friend you could ever ask for! ... The things that he loved to do will be embraced by the people who love him.”

Officials at Carrabassett Valley Police Department, which is named in Sugarloaf releases as leading the investigation into the accident, did not return a request for comment Monday.

The ski-making tower involved in the accident is a 10-foot tall post that has brightly-colored green and yellow hoses and pipes attached to it, Austin said. There is also orange flagging tied on the snow-making gear, which is fixed in its spot along the trail, according to Austin.

Some towers have additional permanent safety markings and signs, and ski patrol places other signs and markings on a case-by-case basis, he said.

Hayburner trail has been open since November, and there was no ski patrol action on the trail on the day of the accident, Austin said.

Waldron was skiing alone and wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, according to Austin.

Another skier called the ski patrol; rescuers transported Waldron down the mountain by toboggan, Austin said.

Sugarloaf ski patrol performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation, according to information provided by Sugarloaf, and paramedics from Northstar Ambulance continued CPR at the clinic, where Waldron was pronounced dead.

Austin was unable to provide details on past fatal ski accidents at Sugarloaf. He said the most recent was a woman who died on another “most difficult” trail in the 2008-09 season. She died after skiing into a tree along Spillway trail, he said.

State legislator Abigail Holman died in a skiing accident at Sugarloaf in April 2007. Holman, 45, of

Fayette, died after she crossed the finish line of an annual fundraising race and collided with a tree, according to newspaper archives. She had raced down Lower Competition Hill, was wearing a helmet and was considered an advanced skier.

Melanie Creamer, a news assistant for The Portland Press Herald, contributed to this story.

David Robinson — 861-9287

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