A Durango High School graduate who is now a professional slackliner used his talents Wednesday to climb a ski lift tower and slide about 30 feet across the cable to cut free an unconscious man who became ensnared in a chairlift at Arapahoe Basin.
“Today, I saved someone’s life. I think some strange forces were at work,” Mickey Wilson, who graduated DHS in 2007, wrote on his Facebook page after the incident.
Wilson could not be reached Thursday for comment.
According to the post, Wilson had planned to ski alone Wednesday, but ran into a group of friends on the mountain. While riding the ski lift, a friend of a friend in the chairlift in front of Wilson got his backpack stuck as he was about to get off, causing the lift to drag him back down the hill.
The backpack, Wilson said, wrapped around the man’s neck and he lost consciousness. Wilson and the rest of the group watched helplessly as their friend hung 10 feet above the snow.
The group attempted to create a “human pyramid” to reach the man, but that failed.
“Then I had a eureka moment,” Wilson wrote. “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.”
Wilson wrote that it was second nature as he climbed the tower, “only way colder and made of steel” compared to his usual slacklining ventures. Slacklining is similar to tightrope walking. It was developed by mountain climbers as a way to test their balance. It has evolved into a sport of its own.
Wilson harrowingly reached the man in four to five minutes, and tried unsuccessfully to break the strap by kicking it. Ski patrol members arrived with a ladder, but decided to toss Wilson a knife, so he could cut the man free.
The unconscious man fell to the snow, where ski patrol members performed CPR and restored the man’s breathing. He was taken down the mountain and to St. Anthony’s Hospital in Denver. The rescued man, a 30-year old from Broomfield, was released Thursday, The Denver Post reported. He sustained a broken rib from the fall, and wished to remain anonymous.
Wilson told The Post that the incident “was one of the most scary things I’ve ever seen, honestly.”
“Just seeing a person get the life sucked out of them. I know I stopped thinking and just started acting.”
Wilson, 28, a part time A-Basin ski instructor who lives in Golden, competes in slacklining tournaments worldwide and has won several Red Bull events.
Wilson is the son of Duffy and Diana Wilson. His mother wrote on her Facebook that she “could not be more proud of my son! Incredible quick thinking and brave action saved a life today!”
According to The Durango Herald archives, Wilson earned a bachelor of science degree in engineering physics from the Colorado School of Mines in 2011, graduating summa cum laude and maintaining a 4.0 grade-point average.
He founded the Mines Slackline Club and worked as a tutor at the college, and researched organic based photovoltaic at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway.
It was last reported he would return to the School of Mines to complete a master’s degree in material science. According to his website, Wilson is a “professional slackliner, adventure athlete, entrepreneur.”
An A-Basin spokeswoman told the Post the lift did not malfunction, and remains open.
The rescue, captured in photos and video, followed two incidents in Utah in which people also got tangled in lifts.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.