Random Act of Sport: Slackliner Scales Ski Lift To Save Dangling Man

Respect the slackline

Image via Mickey Wilson

Last Wednesday at the Arapahoe Basin ski area in Colorado, a man attempted to step off his chairlift and ride down the Rocky Mountains. But as the man dispatched, his backpack tangled in the chair, and he got stuck hanging helplessly from the bench seat.

“It was one of the most scary things I’ve ever seen, honestly,” Mickey Wilson, a part-time ski instructor at the Basin, told The Denver Post. “Just seeing a person get the life sucked out of them. I kind of stopped thinking and just started acting.”

After shutting off the lift, Wilson and other skiers who noticed the situation attempted to build a human pyramid to reach the hanging man, whose feet dangled around 10 feet above the ground, but failed.

“That’s when I realized—it all kind of snapped together—that I can climb this tower and get to him,” Wilson said.

As it turns out, Wilson is a professional slackliner. He competes in events testing balance skills on two-inch-wide strips of webbing, traditionally suspended between two trees—a sport invented in the 1970s by rock climbers on their days off. Wilson is one of the world’s best competitors.

After the human pyramid disbanded, Wilson climbed the lift tower, stepped out onto the lift’s cable, and slid approximately 30 feet to the dangling man’s chair. When Wilson reached the man, who had fallen unconscious, ski patrollers tossed Wilson a knife, which he caught and used to cut the backpack loose. The man fell softly into the powder. He’s reportedly in stable condition with a neck brace.

“The only way I was able to get to him so fast was to climb the tower and shimmy down the line to him,” Wilson said, explaining that other witnesses told him not to climb the lift. “I didn’t listen to them.”

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