Missing teen found alive: Mom talks to ski resort about what he did right

Missing teen found alive because he watched survival shows and did everything right but wear a hat, the ski resort tells an inquiring mom (who also loves survival shows).

AP / Maine Warden Service
Missing teen Nicholas Joy was found alive after two harrowing days lost in Maine. The missing teen was found alive by a snowmobiler, and survived two nights by making a snow cave.

When a missing Massachusetts teen was found alive on Maine's Sugarloaf  Mountain after going missing while skiing, we learned he did everything right to stay alive, including build a snow cave for survival, all of which he credited to knowledge gained by watching TV survival shows. The revelation can reassure parents that there actually is something valuable on television to engage teens’ critical thinking skills and yet motivate them to be outdoors.

Nicholas Joy, 17, was missing on Sugarloaf for nearly two days, but was found early Tuesday morning by a snowmobiler.

I spoke with Ethan Austin, Carabassett Valley Police’s communications director for Sugarloaf this morning, and he explained that the teen, 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, a skill he told his rescuers he learned from watching survival shows on TV. 

“All credit goes to Nicholas for keeping his wits about him and keeping himself alive using skills from the survival shows he said he likes to watch,” Officer Austin said. “Although he would have done a lot better if he’d worn a hat, remained with a partner [his dad Robert] and kept his cell phone with him.”

As a mom I just about shouted “Amen!” when Austin mentioned the ancient battle of all moms v. son battles, “Wear a hat!”

Austin added that this is not the first time he’s heard that watching TV survival shows has played a major role in the rescue of a skier. “Being involved with the ski industry I keep up with this kind of situation and I have seen a number of times where someone who was found talked about having used tips they learned from a show to get them home safe.”

While some critics argue that watching television survival skill shows may give viewers over confidence of their actual skill levels, thus leading them into danger, I think that if you choose the shows well, and watch with your kids, what you get is motivation.

Our family lived aboard a sailboat with our first two children and moved to land thereafter as weekend warriors who sail, surf, hike, bike and kayak with chess for rainy days. Strike that, we do all the aforementioned in all conditions and have played chess in the rain. My husband organizes a winter Laser sailboat Frostbite Series on Sundays for the community. My sons and I take turns as the race committee year-round, floating on the Elizabeth River in all kinds of conditions.

Yet despite all that, teens will be teens and mine still love long couch potato sessions with Gameboys or TV, sometimes simultaneously. So the boys and I struck a compromise and all four of my sons, ages 9, 14, 17,  and 19 and I became devotees of survival shows.

Note: I am not talking about the show "Survivor"which is more about surviving at the expense of others and how it can bring out the worst in people than learning useful skills. For that we turn to The Discovery Channel which actually has a survival site complete with tool, tips, and videos to supplement what they learn on the programs.

We started with Edward Michael "Bear" Grylls, the British adventurer who has a show wherein he’s literally dropped, via plane, boat or chopper with nothing other than the clothes and perhaps parachute on his back.

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Watching “Bear” led to other survival shows, with the current favorite of my teen sons being "Dual Survival," also on The Discovery Channel. On this program, people must work together in pairs, often with opposing methods in order to make it through the wild.

Perhaps, given Austin’s reminder to ski with a partner, "Dual Survival" is the better show for them to watch. “Having a partner in a survival situation can make a big difference because you have someone there to check your judgment.” I will add to that by saying that is doubly true if your partner is also your parent.

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