This incredible high-wire rescue at Arapahoe Basin shows the dangers of backpacks on chairlifts

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

How’s this for worst nightmare material?

Mickey Wilson and his skiing crew were getting ready to dismount from the Lenawee Mountain chairlift at the Arapahoe Basin resort just after 11 a.m. on Wednesday. Then one of the other riders’ backpack straps got stuck in the chair in front of Wilson.

The lift “dragged him back down the hill,” apparently missing the emergency shutoff trigger, as Wilson wrote in an account confirmed by the resort. By the time the lift came to a stop, the “backpack had wrapped around his neck and he was unconscious, dangling 10 feet above the snow.”

Wilson, of Gold, said he and his friends desperately tried different ways to reach the hanging man, including a human pyramid in the deep powder, while ski patrol made its way to the scene. Nothing worked.

“Panic was becoming terror as we realized we were about to watch our friend die in front of our helpless eyes,” he recalled on Instagram.

Wilson, we should mention, is a professional slackliner – a tight-rope walker, in other words. Here’s how the resort describes what he did next: “A guest gained access to the chair and cut the backpack strap of the skier.”

The more dramatic version is that Wilson climbed a lift tower and slid his way down the chairlift cable.

“It was second nature, just like being on a slackline only way colder and made of steel,” he wrote. From there he lowered himself onto the chair, where a ski patroller was able to throw him a knife. He cut the strap and the dangling man fell several feet to the ground.

According to the resort, ski patrollers “and a paramedic began administering emergency care at the scene, and the guest was transported to the base area where he was loaded into a waiting ambulance.”

The fallen man was hospitalized at St. Anthony Hospital. Wilson told The Denver Post that he appeared to be in fair health when they spoke via Facetime on Wednesday night.

The lift is open to the public and did not malfunction, according to a resort spokeswoman.

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