Chairlift rescue story from hero Mickey Wilson (column)
January 7, 2017
Twenty-eight-year-old Mickey Wilson already had an impressive resume Wednesday morning when he headed to Arapahoe Basin Ski Area to ski the deep powder.
By noon, he would — reluctantly — add "hero" to a list of scholarly and athletic accomplishments.
Thousands of Facebook video views, amplified by national television news, metro and local dailies' coverages, tell of Mickey's lifesaving efforts on the Lenawee Lift in which his friend had become entangled, being literally strangled unconscious by his own backpack strap.
On Friday morning, Mickey was interviewed on Denver ABC TV7's Good Morning America.
Here's the link:
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Mickey is a young man with life-long ties to Summit County, where his father, Duffy Wilson, now living in Durango, was the ski patrol director at Copper Mountain Resort for many years.
Duffy named his son in honor of fellow patroller Mickey Johnston, who died in an out-of-bounds avalanche in the early '80s.
Duffy's kid, after graduating from Durango High School, went onto to be a top scholar at the Colorado School of Mines, and in recent years has become one of the world's best pro slackliners, a form of aerial dare-deviling.
He is also a part-time ski instructor at A-Basin, but was not working Wednesday.
This is Mickey's take on the day's events shared on his Facebook page:
"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 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. Eight or so ski patrolmen 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."
Mickey declined to name his fellow skier as have others in media.
Mickey's athletic prowess, and that highly developed ability to quickly climb that lift tower and slide downward to the chair, can be seen in his list of titles:
Natural Games, Millau, France — champion
Red Bull Baylines 2016, San Francisco — champion
Red Bull Airlines 2015, Catania, Sicily — champion
Red Bull Airlines 2014, Catania, Sicily — 3rd
Red Bull Airlines 2013, Naples, Sicily — 2nd
As for that intellectual side, Mickey received bachelor's and master's degrees at Colorado School of Mines in Golden, where he still calls home, and resides with girlfriend Purple McMullen-Laird, also a top-notch slackliner and teacher.
At the internationally recognized engineering school, Mickey paid close attention to his studies, earning a 4.0 GPA all through his undergrad years. His degrees are in physics and micro-electronics materials engineering, with a focus on solar cell technology.
He also studied in Trondheim, Norway, and Sydney, Australia.
His mother, Diana S. Wilson, sums up the many positive comments this way:
"I could not be more proud of my son. Incredible quick thinking and brave action saved a life today. Love you so much, Mickey Wilson."
Miles F. Porter IV, nicknamed "Spike," a Coloradan since 1949, is an Army veteran, former hardrock miner, graduate of Adams State College, and a local since 1982. An award-winning investigative reporter, he and wife Mary E. Staby owned newspapers here for 20 years. Email your social info to firstname.lastname@example.org
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