Next time you’re stuck on a chairlift, ask your friend if he’d do this for you.

One event that’s likely to be on a lot of year-end highlight reels in 2017 is the brave chairlift rescue that Mickey Wilson pulled off in January.

Wilson – a professional slackliner – climbed up a lift tower at the Arapahoe Basin in Colorado and slid several dozen feet across a cable to cut down a man who was hanging by his neck. He used a knife tossed to him by ski patrollers who couldn’t believe what they were witnessing.

One lesson here is to make sure you have a world-class slackliner – essentially a tight rope walker – around if you’re ever in a chairlift.

Here’s Wilson on The Ellen DeGeneres Show with the man he rescued, Richard.

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

The man, who only wants to be identified by his first name, Richard, was trying to get off the three-person lift when his backpack became entangled in the chair. Still dangling from the chair, he was swept around the bullwheel at the top of the lift and back down the mountain. The lift operator immediately shut down the ride.


Wilson was on a chair behind the man, who he knew as a friend of a friend. He immediately realized what was happening.

“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),” said Wilson, a professional slackliner who has competed all over the world. “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 quickly realized “that ‘I can climb this tower and get to him.”


The man was unconscious when Wilson reached him. Ski patrollers then arrived and tossed Wilson a knife to help cut him down.

Richard’s luck was extraordinary. If Wilson had not been a slackliner, he would never have been able to pull it off.

“There really wasn’t much that Arapahoe Basin as a ski area could have done to prevent this,” Wilson told the Post. He also was very generous with the help he received from others. “Arapahoe Basin did an amazing job of responding to this incident.”

Chairlift accidents are quite common, though usually not as harrowing as what happened at Arapahoe. In January, a boy at the Sundance Mountain Resort in Utah was caught on a lift by his backpack, according to the Associated Press. 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.