Lost snowmobiler describes night in the blizzard

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(Host) A Massachusetts snowmobiler who survived Wednesday night’s blizzard lost in Woodford, arrived home safely late yesterday.

Neil Jensen talked with VPR’s Susan Keese about his long, cold night outside in the storm.

(Keese) The 41-year-old builder and a half dozen of his friends checked into the Walk in the Woods Motel at around eleven o’clock Wednesday. Jensen says the name turned out to be prophetic.

It was snowing hard when they left on their sleds for a store they thought was ten minutes away. Jensen needed a permit.

(Jensen) “We were going to go get the permit and get breakfast and buy a helmet with a heated windshield – you know a heated face for myself. And that didn’t happen.”

(Keese) They kept getting stuck in the deep snow, so they decided to go back to the motel.

(Jensen) “And my helmet was a little bit fogged up. I thought we’d been gone longer than we had. So I missed my left hand turn, so I went all the way to where I got stuck, maybe a mile or two up the hill.”

(Keese) After he got stuck, Jensen set out walking in what turned out to be the wrong direction. He retraced his steps to his snowmobile…

(Jensen) “And by the time I got back it got dark. So I stayed with the sled and bundled up as best as I could and rethought this thing and realized I had gone too far.”

(Keese) So Jensen made a sort of tent out of his jacket and hood and spent the night on the sled. From time to time he turned the sled on for heat. He hoped a search team would see the headlights. But the rescue had stopped for the night because of the storm.

(Jensen) “It was very disorienting in the snow storm, at that temperature in the middle of the night. You know, it was really cold, too. So I figured I’d just fall asleep and freeze cause you get hypothermia. The amazing thing is, I can’t tell you what happened to the time. I didn’t sleep, I don’t think, and all of a sudden the sun’s coming up and that’s when I knew I was out of the woods.”

(Keese) Once it was light, Jensen hiked to the motel, where his friends had also spent a sleepless night. He was taken to the hospital in Bennington and treated for frostbite on his nose and foot.

Officials praised Jensen for keeping calm and staying with his sled. Jensen says he’d have been a lot more comfortable if he’d had a thermal blanket and some packs of hand and foot warmers.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.

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