Mickey Wilson saved a skier from a near-death experience at a Colorado ski resort on Wednesday — and he says his incredible act of heroism is all thanks to his slackline skills.
The 28-year-old from Golden, Colorado, arrived at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area in Keystone with plans to hit the slopes with friends. But the fun-filled day quickly turned into a life-threatening recovery mission, when one of Wilson’s fellow skiers suddenly slipped through the chairlift.
“Our other friend had to ride up front because there wasn’t enough space for him on our chair and when we got off the chair he wasn’t there. At first we didn’t know what to think of that and then we started to hear screams and yells,” Wilson said on Good Morning America.
“We went down to investigate and we saw our friend hanging lifelessly from the chair.”
“It was all a blur. It was kind of surreal. I knew I was going around the (bullwheel) and then I was backwards and all of the sudden I was blacking out,” the 30-year-old injured skier (who wishes to remain anonymous) told The Denver Post.
Wilson says the man (who he describes as a friend of a friend) was “literally being hung by his neck by his backpack,” and hanging 10-feet above the snow.
“It was one of the most scary things I’ve ever seen, honestly. Just seeing a person get the life sucked out of them. I kind of stopped thinking and just started acting,” he told the Post.
The resort told the publication that the skier was attempting to unload from the lift when his backpack (filled with food, water and climbing skins) got caught. He was swept around the bullwheel and back down the mountain, when the operator shut down the ride.
Today I saved someone's life. I think some strange forces were at work. I planned to ski by myself today. As fate had it though, some good friends ended up recognizing me despite my ski gear, and we joined forces for an epic pow day. Again, fate intervened. One of our crew got his backpack strap stuck in the chairlift as he tried to unload and the lift dragged him back down the hill. We were on the chair lift behind so we unloaded and ran down the hill to help him when we realized the worst possible thing had happened. The backpack had wrapped around his neck and he was unconscious, dangling 10 feet above the snow. Panic set in and we struggled in vain for about a minute to build a human pyramid to get to him but the powder was too deep and we toppled over. I yelled at the lift operator asking if the lift ran in reverse and he cried no. Ski patrol was on their way but not there yet. Panic was becoming terror as we realized we were about to watch our friend die in front of our helpless eyes. Then I had a eureka moment. I realized I could climb the lift tower above the chair and climb onto the cable and shimmy down to him. I knew my slackline experience prepared me perfectly for this so I burst into action. I climbed the tower and slid down to the the chair. It was second nature, just like being on a slackline only way colder and made of steel. I climbed down the chair and I first tried to break the strap by kicking it but I couldn't. A newly arrived ski patrolman threw me a knife and I luckily caught it on the first try and cut the strap. Our friend fell like a doll into the snow. 8 or so ski patrolman then began CPR. Thankfully they were able to restore his breathing, ski him down to the base, and get him into an ambulance which rushed him to the hospital in Denver. I'd like to take this moment now to thank the #slacklife for the skills it has given me. It was incredibly fortunate I was there and able to act quickly. I'd also like to thank ski patrol for their strong work reviving our friend. I just got an update from the hospital and he's doing quite well and will be released tomorrow! #thankful #lovelife #rightplacerighttime
So, Wilson, an experienced slackliner (a popular activity that consists of balancing on a slack line strung between two posts), and a handful of bystanders tried to create a human pyramid to free the man. But it didn’t work.
“That’s when I realized — it all kind of snapped together — that ‘I can climb this tower and get to him,’ ” Wilson, who travels around the globe competing in slackline competitions, told the Post.
“I threw off my gloves, it was very cold but the adrenaline was really pumping,” he recounted on GMA. “I slid across it, just like I’ve done thousands of time on a slackline and I got down to him. I realized I didn’t have my knife. Right then ski patrol showed up and one of the ski patrolmen made the most perfect toss to me from below from about 20 feet and I caught the knife with my hurt hand and cut him down. It was a wave of relief.”
First ever CLEAN highline backflip! Two 📸angles, the first from @brandon_rieck_photo and the second from highline legend @spencerseabrooke. Such a rewarding slackline moment for me! Another strong confirmation of my love of slacklining. #slackon #slacklife #trickymickey #trickline #slackline @gibbonslacklines
Wilson reached the man — who had become unconscious — in a matter of minutes, freeing him with the knife as bystanders yelled, “Cut him loose!”
“The only way I was able to get to him so fast was to climb the tower and shimmy down the line to him so fast,” he told the Post.
“I was lucky Mickey was there. I’m alive. I get to go ski again someday,” the injured skier, who will leave St. Anthony Hospital with only a broken rib, told the publication.
Officials say skiers should not have been wearing a backpack on the lift.
“It’s okay to use a backpack skiing but when you get on the chairlift take it off. Hold on to it. Set it on your lap and don’t wear it when you’re riding the chairlift,” Arapahoe Basin Chief Operating Officer Alan Henceroth told GMA.
In a statement released to the station, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area said: “The lift did not malfunction and is currently running and open to the public. We wish to extend our best wishes to our guest for a speedy recovery.”