Professional Slackliner Describes Rescuing Skier Dangling From Chairlift

Mickey Wilson was skiing with friends at Arapahoe Basin in Colorado.

January 06, 2017, 8:28 AM

— -- The professional slackliner who saved a fellow skier from a near-death experience at a Colorado ski resort said he had a a “eureka moment” when he realized how he could save his friend's life.

Mickey Wilson, 28, of Golden, Colorado, was skiing with friends at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, in Keystone, Colorado, Wednesday when one of them suddenly disappeared from 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,” Wilson said today on “Good Morning America.” “At first we didn’t know what to think of that and then we started to hear screams and yells."

“We went down to investigate and we saw our friend hanging lifelessly from the chair,” he said.

Wilson said he and his friends realized their friend could possibly die. They first teamed up with a chair lift operator to try to form what Wilson described as a “human pyramid” to reach their friend, who did want to be identified.

“Because of the very deep powder…we just toppled over and it didn’t work,” according to Wilson, who competes around the world in slacklining, a sport that involves walking on a flat piece of webbing tied between two anchors, such as trees.

With the ski patrol on its way to help, Wilson said he knew "time was of the essence."

He said he had a “eureka moment” when he realized he could climb the nearby lift tower and “shimmy” down the cable to reach the victim.

PHOTO: Mickey Wilson helped rescue a friend dangling off a chair lift at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, in Keystone, Colorado.
Mickey Wilson helped rescue a friend dangling off a chair lift at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, in Keystone, Colorado.

“I threw off my gloves,” said Wilson. “It was very cold but the adrenaline was really pumping.”

Wilson said people below yelled at him to stop climbing the tower. He then got on the cable and treated it like a slackline.

“I slid across it, just like I’ve done thousands of time on a slackline and I got down to him,” Wilson said. “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,” he recounted. “It was a wave of relief.”

The injured skier was transported to a local hospital and treated for injuries, including a broken rib, but was released from the hospital on Thursday, according to Wilson.

“They’re actually having survival a party for him,” said Wilson. “It’s amazing.”

Wilson wrote on Instagram, where he posted photos documenting the rescue, that the friend “got his backpack strap stuck in the chairlift as he tried to unload and the lift dragged him back down the hill.”

Officials at Arapahoe Basin emphasized that the skier should not have been wearing a backpack on the ski lift. The ski lift was stopped immediately after the incident, officials said.

"It's okay to use a backpack skiing but when you get on the chairlift take it off," said Arapahoe Basin Chief Operating Officer Alan Henceroth. "Hold on to it. Set it on your lap and don't wear it when you're riding the chairlift."

The injured skier, identified by The Denver Post as a 30-year-old from Broomfield, Colorado, told the newspaper he just remembers people yelling as his backpack before it became entangled in the chairlift.

“Then it was all a blur,” he told the Post on Thursday. “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.”

Arapahoe Basin Ski Area issued a statement to ABC News Thursday about the incident.

"The lift did not malfunction and is currently running and open to the public," the statement read. "We wish to extend our best wishes to our guest for a speedy recovery."

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