A cross-country skier stranded in the backcountry with little food or water for eight days — at one time crawling on his elbows because of a broken leg — was rescued Monday after searchers heard his emergency whistle.

Charles Horton (search), 55, was hospitalized in fair condition with minor frostbite, mild hypothermia and dehydration in addition to a broken leg, authorities said.

"This is stuff books are written about," Rio Blanco County sheriff's Sgt. Anthony Mazzola said. "His skills and knowledge, his gear and his will to live are what kept him alive."

Horton, an experienced outdoorsman, broke his leg April 17 on what was to have been a one-day ski trip near his Steamboat Springs (search) home, about 100 miles northwest of Denver.

He wasn't reported missing for a week, however — until his landlord returned from vacation and realized Horton wasn't at home, Sheriff Si Woodruff said.

Rescuers found Horton about two miles from a temporary command center they established in their search.

A friend, Mary O'Brien, said Horton had managed to crawl about 200 yards, supporting himself on his elbows and dragging his injured right leg behind him.

Temperatures dipped into the 20s at midweek when a cold front moved through, but little snow fell, National Weather Service (search) meteorologist Dave Nadler said.

Horton built makeshift shelters or spent the nights sleeping under trees, sometimes kindling a fire, Mazzola said.