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Skier rescued after spending hours on frigid mountain says his faith helped see him through

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Posted at 9:59 PM, Jan 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-02 23:59:49-05

WEBER COUNTY, Utah -- Freezing and alone, a California man who became lost out of bounds at Powder Mountain Resort was rescued around midnight, and he tells FOX 13 News the ski patrol and his faith in God helped see him through to safety.

Michael Nessl said that after he became lost out of bounds at the resort Friday night, he recited a passage from the Bible over and over.

"The lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” he said. “He makes me to lie down in green pastures."

He had intermittent cell phone service, and he eventually managed to send a text message out to his wife.

"So I text her back, saying, ‘Hey call Powder Mountain: I'm lost in powder country.'"

Ski patrol started a search, with only a rough idea of where Michael was last known to be skiing.

“When you're riding some of these areas, sometimes the lodge is down, sometimes the lodge is up, so it is quite confusing,” said Keith Moore, a ski patrol director for Powder Mountain.

As darkness set in, Nessl said he continued to pray.

"He leaves me beside the still waters, he restores my soul,” he said.

He followed tracks in the snow, hoping they would lead him to safety.

"So I was skiing down the hill with my phone in my hand with the light on, and, you know, poles in the other hand, I almost hit a tree on the way down,” he said.

But those tracks did not lead him to safety.

He said: "I kind of stood for about ten minutes, yelling ‘Help!’”

Lt. Brandon Toll of the Weber County Sheriff’s Office said they followed Nessl’ tracks to find him.

“They located a lot of different tracks that circled around, back-tracked,” he said. “They just were really confusing tracks for several hours.”

After building a makeshift shelter under a tree, Nessl continued to pray.

"He leads me down the path of righteousness for his namesake,” he said.

Around midnight, he finally heard voices and saw the lights of rescue crews heading his way.

'He was cold,” Toll said. “Obviously with the temperatures being four degrees, he was very cold.”

Nessl suffered from minor frostbite on his toes, but is otherwise OK. He said he is grateful to the rescue crews for saving him.

"Great job on their part, and they did a really great job, and I'm thankful for them,” he said.

Nessl also said his faith helped him endure.

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me,” he said.

Ski patrol says in the past week they've had two rescues regarding people going out of bounds, and they urge skiers to become familiar with the terrain and watch out for boundary signs.