What I’m saying is that skiers and snowboarders should embrace the cold. Put on your woolies and get out there but take extra extra precaution. Thank God for the rescuer!
A skier was hurried to a Lakewood hospital Wednesday following a daring rescue from a chairlift at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area earlier that morning. The skier’s backpack got caught and he was left hanging and unconscious by his neck.
A man who got tangled in an Arapahoe Basin chairlift Wednesday morning and was hanging unconscious from his neck was cut down by a professional slackliner who climbed up a lift tower, slid approximately 30 feet across the lift’s cable and cut him free with a knife tossed from ski patrollers.
“It was one of the most scary things I’ve ever seen, honestly,” said Mickey Wilson, as he recounted the rescue of the dangling man. “Just seeing a person get the life sucked out of them. I kind of stopped thinking and just started acting.”
Arapahoe Basin says the man who was caught in the chair was taken by ambulance to St. Anthony Summit Medical Center and was then transferred to St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood. The ski area declined to provide information on the man’s condition.
However, Wilson said he spoke to the man through FaceTime on Wednesday night and said that despite a neck brace he appeared to be OK.
The resort says the man was trying to unload from the three-person lift when his backpack became entangled in the chair. The man, still dangling from the chair, was swept around the bullwheel at the top of the lift and back down the mountain, at which point the operator shut down the ride.
Wilson, a part-time A-Basin ski instructor, says he was on a chair behind the man. About 30 seconds after he unloaded, he realized what was happening to the man who he described as a friend of a friend.
“As he tried to get off his backpack caught, and because he was on the outside of the chairlift, he went around the emergency chairlift shutoff (trigger),” Wilson, 28, said. “He was not only caught, he was literally being hung by his neck by his backpack. He was hanging 3-feet, 4-feet below the chair. His feet were maybe only about 10 feet off the snow.”
Wilson said he and a few bystanders first tried to create a human pyramid to reach the man, but the group kept tumbling down.
“That’s when I realized — it all kind of snapped together — that ‘I can climb this tower and get to him,’ ” said Wilson, a professional slackliner from Golden who competes all over the world and has won Red Bull events.
Wilson says he reached the unconscious man in about four or five minutes. Ski patrollers then arrived on scene with a ladder, but upon seeing Wilson, “perfectly tossed me the knife.”
Wilson cut down the motionless man, who fell about 10-15 feet. The drop was captured in a video, with people screaming “Cut him loose!” in the background.
Wilson said his slacklining experience made the rescue possible. “The only way I was able to get to him so fast was to climb the tower and shimmy down the line to him so fast.”
Wilson said bystanders were yelling at him not to climb the lift’s ladder, but “I didn’t listen to them.”
“There really wasn’t much that Arapahoe Basin as a ski area could have done to prevent this,” Wilson said by phone on Thursday as he was driving up for a day of powder skiing at A-Basin. “Arapahoe Basin did an amazing job of responding to this incident.”
Wilson says he ended up on the mountain with the man by chance. He was planning to ski alone on Wednesday but ran into some pals at the base, leading to them riding together in a group.
“There is a procedure in place that we are following,” Adrienne Saia Isaac, an A-Basin spokeswoman, said of how the resort is investigating the incident. “The lift is open to the public. It did not malfunction.”
She added: “We’re extending our best wishes to the guest for a quick recovery.”
A similar incident happened Monday at Sundance Mountain Resort in Utah, where The Associated Press reports a boy was caught on a lift by his backpack. The child kicked off his skis and threw his poles away as two lift operators propped a ladder up, with one climbing up to the chair and pulling the boy to safety, the AP says.
The boy, who was rescued in about seven minutes, was OK. It was the second time in the last three weeks that a kid had become stuck on a lift by a backpack at Sundance, according to the AP.
In Colorado last week, a 40-year-old Texas mother died when she and her two young girls fell about 25 feet from a chairlift at Ski Granby Ranch in Grand County. That incident remains under investigation.