Update: Wilson told Men’s Journal Friday that after he cut his friend free he thought, “Thank God I’m a slackliner.” He says he was able to apply his balancing skills to the rescue. “My skills were custom tailored for this moment. For me it wasn’t really scary because it was within my abilities to scoot across the cable. It wasn't that slacklining just helped me get to him. It was the reason I was able to."
A professional slackliner performed an epic rescue at a Colorado ski resort, shimmying up a lift tower, gliding across the cable, and then cutting loose an unconscious man who was dangling from the chairlift after his backpack got entangled with it.
The rescue looked like it could have been straight from an action movie with a trained stuntman. But Mickey Wilson — a professional slackliner who has won Red Bull competitions — credits the skills and training from his sport for allowing him to make the harrowing rescue. Some fate came into play, too, he said.
“I knew my slackline experience prepared me perfectly for this, so I burst into action,” Wilson wrote in a now widely shared status he posted on his Facebook page. “I climbed the tower and slid down to the chair. It was second nature, just like being on a slackline, only way colder and made of steel.” Wilson, in the social media post, said he had planned to ski at Arapahoe Basin alone on Wednesday, but ran into some friends and joined up with them. A guy in the crew got his backpack strap stuck in the chairlift as he tried to unload, Wilson recounts, and the lift dragged him back down the hill.
The backpack wrapped around his friend’s neck, and his friend went unconscious, hanging about 10 feet above the snow. At first, the group tried to make a human pyramid to reach their friend, but the snow was too deep and they toppled over. That’s when Wilson sprung into action. Once he made it to his friend, a ski patrolman tossed him a knife, which he caught on the first try and then cut the strap.
“Our friend fell like a doll into the snow,” Wilson says in the Facebook post. “Eight or so ski patrolman then began CPR.” They were able to restore the skier’s breathing, get him into an ambulance, and then rush him to a hospital in Denver, Wilson relayed.
Wilson told The Denver Post that he spoke to his friend through FaceTime on Wednesday night and, despite being in a neck brace, seemed to be doing fine. In December 2016, a boy was rescued at a Utah resort after his backpack got caught in the chairlift.
While backpacks aren’t banned on chairlifts, lift operators do caution against them. If you need to bring your backpack on the lift, though, you can take it off your back, put your arms through the front and strap in on your chest so there aren’t any straps dangling.