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‘One of the most scary things I’ve ever seen’: Hero who saved skier on lift considers fate

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 8/01/2017 Cindy Boren, Sarah Larimer

Mickey Wilson was on a chairlift at Arapahoe Basin in Colorado, anticipating just another day of skiing with friends Wednesday morning. It ended with Wilson being hailed a hero and contemplating the ways in which events can conspire to create results that are randomly good or bad.

In the chair ahead of him was a friend of a friend, geologist from Alaska. But when that man tried to get off the lift, he became entangled and ended up dangling above the ground. “He was not only caught, he was literally being hung by his neck by his backpack,” Wilson told the Denver Post.

The man was hanging about 3 to 4 feet below the chair with his feet dangling about 10 feet above the Colorado snow. “It was one of the most scary things I’ve ever seen, honestly,” Wilson said. “Just seeing a person get the life sucked out of them. I kind of stopped thinking and just started acting.”

Wilson, a 28-year-old from Golden, Colo., has studied physics and metallurgy in obtaining a bachelor’s and master’s degree, but right now he happens to be a professional slackliner. That means that he is adept at sliding and doing performing on a rubberized line. It’s a sport that is in its infancy, one that appeals to Wilson, who told the Washington Post on Saturday night that, he believes “your 20s are for recreational, physical accomplishments and your 30s are for more intellectual pursuits.” Wilson’s prowess at the sport made all the difference.

Wilson got to the lift tower and then climbed onto the cable and slid about 30 feet to the man in distress. He grabbed a knife and cut the man down. “A lot of twists and turns led me to be there at that moment,” he told the Washington Post. “I could have gotten a ski lesson. I wasn’t supposed to be with those guys [the man who was stuck and other friends] that day. It was very random that I was. I didn’t see them out on the trails at first. We met up after one run.”

The man who was rescued suffered a broken rib in the incident and was released from a hospital Thursday. He was, Wilson said, planning to head back to Alaska on Sunday. “He’s doing really well,” Wilson said. “He Face-Timed with me. It was pretty emotional, but it was good stuff. Doctors say that you can suffer brain damage when you go three-to-five minutes with an air supply to the brain. I think he was hanging there by his neck about four minutes.”

Here’s Wilson’s version of the story, according to the Instagram caption:

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.

The incident at Arapahoe Basin occurred on the Lenawee Mountain Lift, said Marketing and Communications Manager Adrienne Saia Isaac. Patrol dispatch received a call at around 11 a.m., and were asked to respond to the top of the lift. The man was eventually taken to a hospital in Lakewood, Colo., Isaac said. The lift reopened Wednesday, and was open to the public Thursday.

Wilson has been hailed as a hero and has been interviewed seemingly constantly, with the random event bringing global attention through the viral video.

“The thing that I love about this story,” Wilson noted Saturday night, apart from having saved a life, “is that it’s bringing people together in my life.”

Old friends are calling his mother. Someone asked a Facebook friend if he knew Wilson and gave him five dollars, telling the friend to guy Wilson a beer.

Since the incident, Wilson has had a little time and space to consider just what happened on that mountain.

He has, he said, thought about faith and alternate realities and just choices. Different paths that life can take,” he said. “Decisions matter a lot, but bad luck and blind luck [factor into events]. It was really bad luck that got us to that spot. He is an expert skier. we’re all pretty good, but we got ourselves into a horrendous situation. These things just happen and you always just need to do the best you can do.

“That’s what everybody did that day.”

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