CARRABASSETT VALLEY — A 24-year-old Orono man who went out-of-bounds while skiing on Sugarloaf Mountain on Wednesday afternoon was located just before midnight, cold but otherwise unharmed, according to officials from the Maine Warden Service.
Cody Martel, 24, had been lost for almost six hours when state game wardens found him in a remote part of the mountain known as Hell’s Gate, which Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife spokeswoman Deborah Turcotte described as being heavily forested and with extremely steep terrain.
Attempts to reach Martel on Thursday were unsuccessful.
Among the conditions the lost skier encountered were temperatures that dipped into the teens, snowy skies and snow that was chest-deep in spots, Turcotte said. In addition, she said, high winds made it difficult for him and the people who were searching for him to hear each other until the wind died down Wednesday night.
She said searchers tracked signals emitted from Martel’s cell phone in their effort to get a better handle on his location.
“That helped quite a bit,” Turcotte said. Despite that, however, a ground search was needed to find Martel because his exact whereabouts were unknown.
According to warden service officials, Martel was skiing around noon when he left the marked trails and became lost near Hell’s Gate. He later told game wardens that he did not see the signs saying that the area was off-limits to skiing.
Martel eventually reached a tributary of Rapid Stream, where he was able to call a friend on his cell phone about 3:30 p.m. The friend reported him lost to Sugarloaf ski patrol.
The ski patrol was able to make cell phone contact with Martel, who was encouraged to stay in one location, according to warden Sgt. John Blagdon.
The Maine Warden Service was called in to search for Martel about 6 p.m. Warden Dan Christianson coordinated the search. Wardens Jonathan Parker, Kris McCabe and Scott Stevens and personnel from Kingfield Fire and Rescue and Carrabassett Valley Fire Department assisted, Turcotte said.
Martel’s cell phone battery eventually began losing its charge and contact became sporadic, she said.
Turcotte said Parker and Stevens found Martel at 11:15 p.m. After Martel was warmed up by rescuers, he was removed from the woods by snowmobile. He was taken to West Kingfield Road, a distance of about 10 miles, checked by emergency medical personnel and released.
According to warden service officials, the area in which Martel was found Wednesday was near where four teenage snowboarders were forced to spent the night last March. Known as the snowfields, it has a large section of ungroomed expert terrain.
In that incident, wardens and others had to conduct two simultaneous searches because one member of the party became separated from the other three, The Associated Press reported at the time.
With snow falling and winds howling, the teens kept themselves warm by continually moving. Searchers were able to maintain cell phone contact with the snowboarders. Though they came within shouting distance of the teens, searchers were forced to suspend the effort until morning because of weather conditions.
The teenagers told wardens they were following snowboard tracks and did not see the out-of-bounds signs when they made their way into the woods and got lost.