updated 2/19/2004 4:22:34 PM ET 2004-02-19T21:22:34

A former Olympic hockey player who became lost in the Sierra Nevada wilderness survived for a week by living in a makeshift igloo and eating pine nuts and needles.

Searchers found Eric Lemarque, 34, sprawled in the snow, conscious but barely moving. He was unable to find his way back to Mammoth Mountain ski resort after going out of ski-run boundaries while snowboarding alone.

“It was amazing that he survived in that cold,” rescuer Joe Rousek said. “We knew he was a hockey player, in good shape. But I don’t think he’d have lasted another night.”

Lemarque, who was rescued last Friday, remained hospitalized for dehydration, hypothermia and severe frostbite to his left foot.

He was snowboarding alone Feb. 6 when “he went off the track,” said his mother, Susan Lemarque.

“When it got dark, he couldn’t tell quite where he was,” she said. “He continued on down the mountain, thinking he’d find his way out.”

Lemarque, a hockey coach who played for the French national team in the 1994 Olympics, relied on pine nuts and needles for food and built a crude igloo as shelter.

His parents alerted authorities at the resort after they were unable to reach their son by phone.

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