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Professional slackliner attempts rescue for friend hanging unconscious from chairlift

Professional slackliner Mickey Wilson spends a lot of the time on the ski slopes – and performing on slack lines.

Those two talents combined helped him save the life of a friend who got caught in a chairlift at Arapahoe Basin by his backpack straps, and left him hanging unconscious.

The incident happened around 11 a.m. Wednesday morning on the Lenawee Mountain, according to Arapahoe Basin Ski resort.

Diana Wilson, Mickey’s mother, told 9NEWS that her son was skiing at A-Basin, where he works as a part-time ski instructor, when he met up with some friends. One of his friends got caught on the chairlift and was hanging by his neck.


“Mickey was able to get to him by shimmying down the lift-line and then was able to cut him free,” Diana said. “I am just so proud that my son had the talents and the knowledge to help save his life. I’m a very proud mom.”

According to Arapahoe Basin, the man who was caught in the chair was taken to St. Anthony’s hospital for treatment.

Diana said her son spoke to his friend in the hospital Wednesday night and he appeared to be doing alright and is recovering.

“I don’t think I’m a hero,” Mickey said. “I think I’m a really good slackliner with a lot of really good rope and climbing skills that allowed me to do exactly what was needed at the time.”

Hours after the harrowing rescue occurred, 28-year-old Mickey posted pictures of the rescue as well as a post detailing what happened.

His Instagram post:

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.

Footage of the event:

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 [Mickey Wilson] (@mickeywilsonslacker>

Diana said it was by chance that her son met up with his friends Wednesday morning. He originally had plans to ski alone, but when some of his buddies recognized him, they started skiing together as a group.

“When you hear one of your guy friends scream at the top of their lungs in kind of a choked out scared voice, that really brings a lot of the reality of the situation to mind,” Mickey said. 

According to A-Basin’s spokesperson Adrienne Saia Isaac, the resort is investigating the incident.

“The lift is open to the public. It did not malfunction,” Isaac said.

Back in 2015, 9NEWS profiled Mickey Wilson for his slacklining talents. The Durango High School graduate is considered one of the best in the world at slacklining, a newer sport that involves athletes performing on a rope tied up between two points. It’s not quite tight-rope walking, and it’s not exactly gymnastics.

When 9NEWS spoke to Wilson in August 2015, Wilson said “It was a sport that I got good at a lot faster than anyone else…. And it’s a sport that allows you to control your mind almost like a Jedi. I think it gives you special powers, honestly I really do.”

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