Massachusetts Teenager Authors an Amazing Story of Winter Survival

Ideas & Advice / Winter Sports

As I watched my 10 o’clock local news last night, my heart sank when I heard that 17 year-old Nicholas Joy from Medford, Massachusetts had been missing on Sugarloaf Mountain since late Sunday afternoon after getting lost in the woods during his last ski run of the day. Just one night alone in Carrabassett Valley, Maine with no shelter would be tough to live through, but two nights without shelter? Well, let’s just say I didn’t think this story was going to end well. Fortunately for Nicholas, he turned the plot in his favor by keeping himself hydrated with water from a nearby stream and building a snow shelter lined with tree branches to protect himself from the frigid temperatures.

Earlier this morning, Nicholas started walking in the direction of the snowmobile engines he heard in the distance–snowmobiles ridden by members of the search party that was looking for him. Around 10 o’clock this morning, Nicholas was found by Joseph Paul of Warwick, Massachusetts who volunteered for the search. More details are sure to emerge about this remarkable survival story but three things jump out at me as invaluable reminders for anyone who ventures outside.

First, Nicholas didn’t panic.

Of all the pieces of expert advice we try to pass along at Eastern Mountain Sports, “don’t panic” is the hardest one to follow. I know how scared I was when I was about his age and I got lost near the summit of Mount Adams in February, and I was with 8 other guys at the time. For Nicholas to keep his wits about him and go about the business of keeping himself a warm is truly admirable.

Second, Nicholas kept himself hydrated.

When you’re trying to keep warm, it may seem crazy to drink water straight from a frigid stream but keeping hydrated is an essential part of as possible to preventing hypothermia.

Third, and most important, Nicholas built a snow shelter.

Going back to the notion of not panicking, I respect Nicholas’s discipline to swallow his pride and stop searching for the trail he got lost on, hunker down and ride out the night in a shelter built with his own hands. I’d like to think I would have had that same sound judgment at his age but I have a feeling I would have kept going with the thought that the trail has “just got to be up there somewhere.”

I’m sure the shelter Nicholas made was pretty basic but here’s a look at a Quinzee shelter made by one of our employees a few years ago:

Nicholas survived by keeping his head and avoiding hypothermia, one of the most dangerous conditions that can befall any outdoor enthusiast any time of year. As fate would have it, we just created an infographic to help identify the signs and dangers of hypothermia as well as some suggestions for surviving it. As Nicholas proved so successfully, this kind of knowledge is truly priceless.

How to Survive Hypothermia

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Jim Darroch

Jim's love for the outdoors began with family camping trips in "Brady Bunch" style canvas tents and progressed to backpacking adventures with the Boy Scouts. In 2007, he fulfilled his teenage dream by joining Eastern Mountain Sports as Brand Communications Manager. When he's not in the office, you'll find Jim kayaking, hiking, and mountain biking around the Monadnock Region and throughout New England with his wife Brenda and his dog Brewski. Follow Jim Darroch on !

1 Comment

  1. James Nevins
    March 6, 2013, 9:07 am

    Hi all !!

    In the NEWS you’ve all heard about the Young Guy who was LOST! On a mountain in MAINE for 2 days. please see: CHANNEL 7 WHDH Boston website.

    Family members said he learned survival skills watching a show, called Bear Grylls – Man vs. Wild. – learning lessons how to build a snow cave.
    please see:

    Well in the 1930′s there was a BOY who was LOST! On MT. KATAHADIN for 9 days !!!!!!
    please see:

    see LOST TRAIL-Part 1-with Donn

    and see LOST TRAIL-Part 1-with Donn

    More about the BOOK:

    And FINALLY for FUN here’s what the SkI & SNOWBOARD PROs do:

    Freeride World Tour is back in 2013

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