ARAPAHOE BASIN, Colo. (CBS4) – A random meeting of friends ended when one saved the other’s life on a chairlift at Arapahoe Basin.
“Today I saved someone’s life,” Mickey Wilson posted to his Instagram page. “I think some strange forces were at work.”
Later Wilson told CBS4’s Andrea Flores, “He was hanging by his neck.”
The Arapahoe Basin Ski Area confirms the incident, saying it happened at approximately 11 a.m. on Wednesday.
Wilson was out then for a solo day at A-Basin when, he explains, fate intervened and he ran into some friends.
While going up on the lift, though, fate intervened again.
One of them got his backpack stuck on the lift as he tried to unload and it carried him back down the hill, the shoulder strap wrapped around his neck which cut off his circulation.
“Since we were the chair right behind him, as he was getting pulled around, that’s right when we were dismounting and then he goes airborne and he’s off the ground getting held up by his strap,” said Wilson’s friend Hans Mueller.
With his friend unconscious, the lift operator unable to back it up, Wilson says, “panic set in and we struggled in vain for about a minute to build a human pyramid to get him but the powder was too deep and we toppled over.”
Another skier who was there caught the frightening moment on camera.
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. 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
“It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. It’s the most helpless I’ve ever felt. Being two feet from my best friend, my best man, while I watch him lose consciousness and we didn’t have a plan,” said Mueller.
As he thought he was going to have to watch his friend die, Wilson says he “had a eureka moment.”
“And I looked at the tower and I looked at the cable going down from the tower to him and I said, ‘I can climb up that tower,'” said Wilson. “And I can scoot down it and get to him and make this rescue go faster.”
“I think he was just reacting, but with a guy like Mickey reacting and a plan can be the same thing,” said Mueller.
It was like second nature, Wilson says, “only way colder [than being on a slackline] and made of steel.”
The only problem, he still couldn’t free his friend.
But a ski patrolman arrived just in time.
He “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.”
The ski patrolman, Wilson says, then began CPR, restoring his friend before transporting him to the base and to a waiting ambulance.
“The patrol immediately, all eight of them, jumped on him, CPR, and he started breathing again,” said Wilson.
“It was a cascade of a few different failures that led to the situation and without a superhero you can’t always get out of those,” said Mueller.
The friend was rushed to the hospital where he was treated for broken ribs. He was released from the hospital and returned home to recover Thursday.
Arapahoe Basin Statement Regarding Lenawee Mountain Lift Incident:
On Wednesday, January 4, 2017, an adult male skier wearing a backpack attempted to unload the Lenawee Mountain Lift at the summit of Arapahoe Basin Ski Area. The straps of his backpack had become entangled in the chair, and the guest was unable to unload. The lift was stopped.
Ski patrol dispatch received a call about the incident at approximately 1101 hours, and patrol was immediately dispatched to the scene. A guest gained access to the chair and cut the backpack strap of the skier. Ski patrol 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 lift did not malfunction and is currently running and open to the public. For further information about the medical condition of the skier, please contact St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood. We wish to extend our best wishes to our guest for a speedy recovery.