Missing teen skier found alive near Sugarloaf, built snow cave to survive

Posted March 05, 2013, at 9:41 a.m.
Last modified March 05, 2013, at 3:25 p.m.

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Nicholas Joy, 17, of Medford, Mass., who was last seen with his father near Sugarloaf's Timberline chairlift, was found near the Caribou Pond Road on the mountain’s west side alive and well Tuesday morning.
Courtesy of WCSH 6
Nicholas Joy, 17, of Medford, Mass., who was last seen with his father near Sugarloaf's Timberline chairlift, was found near the Caribou Pond Road on the mountain’s west side alive and well Tuesday morning.
Nicholas Joy, 17, of Medford, Mass., was found alive near Sugarloaf ski resort Tuesday morning, March 5, after he disappeared Sunday.
Maine Warden Service
Nicholas Joy, 17, of Medford, Mass., was found alive near Sugarloaf ski resort Tuesday morning, March 5, after he disappeared Sunday.

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CARRABASSETT VALLEY, Maine — Nicholas Joy, missing on Sugarloaf for nearly two days, was found early Tuesday morning by an out-of-state snowmobiler.

The 17-year-old boy, who skied out of bounds off the Binder trail just after noon on Sunday, built a snow cave late that day when he realized he was lost.

According to Maine Warden Service Lt. Kevin Adam, Joy hunkered down in the cave to stay warm, and drank fresh water from the nearby Carrabassett Stream to remain hydrated.

Joy, 17, of Medford, Mass., was found alive and well at 9 a.m. Tuesday, nearly 48 hours after he was reported missing. According to the Warden Service, he was a little hypothermic and very tired, having survived two nights in 20-degree temperatures.

Joy was wearing ski pants and a ski jacket, but was not wearing a helmet and did not have his cell phone with him.

According to Adam, Joy was found near the Caribou Pond Road, used only by snowmobilers during the winter, just off the western side of Sugarloaf Mountain. He was hiking along that trail when Joel Paul of Massachusetts happened to be snowmobiling by.

Paul, who is a fire chief, was not part of the search party but called wardens to report finding Joy.

John Diller, general manager at Sugarloaf, said that as soon as he heard Joy had been found, he went to Caribou Pond Road with the teen’s parents, Robert and Donna Joy. “I cried with them,” he said, “It was almost like a miracle.”

According to wardens, Joy — on what was supposed to be his last run of the day Sunday before returning to Massachusetts — skied out-of-bounds and skied for quite a while before realizing he was too far out. He built a snow cave that afternoon, and hunkered down for the night. Several times during the day Monday the teen left the cave to make attempts to hike out in different directions, before returning to the cave at night.

He heard snowmobilers Monday, which were rescuers looking for him, but he didn’t heard their whistles or calls and wasn’t able to reach them.

Tuesday morning, according to wardens, Joy “realized he had to do something” and started hiking out, eventually connecting with Caribou Pond Road. He was located about 4 miles from Route 27.

Joy was transported to Franklin Memorial Hospital for evaluation, according to the Warden Service.

He did all the right things to stay alive, according to Adam, but wardens haven’t had a chance to talk to him about how he knew to build the snow cave, where he went off the trail or what his hiking route was.

The warden service, the Sugarloaf ski patrol and others had been searching for Joy on skis, snowshoes and snowmobiles since Sunday afternoon, when he was reported missing. Authorities say Joy and his father split up and took separate trails from the top Sunday, and the father called for help when his son didn’t meet him.

After 10 wardens and 25 volunteers spent the daylight Monday searching, wardens organized a more extensive search starting Tuesday morning. Among the 85 searchers gathered Tuesday were wardens, Navy Seals, Marines, ski patrol volunteers, students from Carrabassett Valley and members of the Maine Association for Search and Rescue.

According to Adam, the volunteers were given a GSP and assigned a specific grid to search by foot, a labor-intensive process conducted in very poor weather conditions and zero visibility because of a low-hanging fog line at the mountain.

Searchers were in position on the mountain when Paul called to report finding Joy.

 

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