Slackliner Mickey Wilson, in his owns words, reflects on Arapahoe Basin Ski Area rescue

Mickey Wilson
Guest column
Mickey Wilson.
Diana Wilson / Special to the Daily |

I have had a lot on my mind since the incident last Wednesday. I had climbed a ski lift tower and traversed the cable to help my friend who was being strangled by his backpack strap after it snagged on the Lenawee chairlift at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area. Mostly I’ve been trying to keep up with the media and kind people who reached out to me to either congratulate me or ask questions.

In all honesty, I feel like the easy part of this whole thing was the rescue. That took less than five minutes. The hard part has been the aftermath.

I’m not quite sure how this story blew up like it did. On Thursday morning, I went to A-Basin wondering not when, but if anyone in the media would take notice. I prepared for teaching a ski lesson but again, like the day before, the bad weather and roads left many of us ski school instructors without a lesson, so I did what any right-minded Colorado-minded kid would do — skied the powder like my life depended on it.

I skied harder on Thursday than I have in a long time. Maybe my experience the day before had instilled in me an even stronger sense of my purpose on this earth. Or maybe it was just that there was over a foot of blower powder.

Either way, when I returned to my locker at the end of the day, the real whirlwind began. There were sticky notes telling me to meet with the head honchos of the Basin, who wanted to congratulate and thank me. Hundreds of messages on my phone through the many channels we are forced to monitor in this modern age: SMS, voicemail, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, email, Instagram and Twitter (I don’t even use Twitter!).

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Thursday night consisted of my first interviews, preparations for appearing on “Good Morning America” at the same time as the “Today Show,” and many conversations with loved ones about life, love and labor. I spoke about life with my godfather Bob Winsett, who ski patrolled with my father Duffy Wilson at Copper Mountain in the 1980s.

I’m named after their fallen comrade Mickey Johnston, who died in an avalanche while skiing off the backside of Copper on my dad’s birthday, Dec. 18, 1983. We had so much to discuss regarding risk and reward, life and death, and how one of the most critical things in this life is finding happiness in our pursuits every day.

Mickey Johnston embodied that ideal and I try to live up to it as well. I spoke to my girlfriend, Purple (yes that is her name), and my mother, Diana, about love and how it can trump all situations and hardships. We also talked about how lucky it was that I was there and I had the slacklining skills as well as the determination to act on my instincts despite protests from others not to climb the tower.

Then I spoke to my dad over the phone about labor. Our first conversation was actually a heated one about things I thought were irrelevant, like the fact that I had been absent the entire day while the country’s media outlets tried to track me down. I was indignant and couldn’t believe my father had anything but praise for my “heroic” actions.

Now I realize he had a damn good point and I want to say sorry to him for that argument. I have been given an amazing opportunity and a powerful megaphone with which to blast my message.

Message No. 1: Live your life the way you want, but make sure your life’s purpose resonates and aligns with the kind of person you want to be. If I had not followed my dreams of an action sports career at the end of my master’s degree in physics, I would not have pursued professional slacklining nor been able to traverse the cable to my friend. Life is about being wealthy experientially, not monetarily.

Message No. 2: Love as much as you can every day. Love leads to a wealth of benefits. Love what you do, love who you surround yourself with, love yourself even if you make mistakes.

Message No. 3: Take labor seriously. Work hard, play hard. Our country finds itself in a tumultuous time and emotions are running rampant. From fear to anger to confusion to racism, we now find ourselves part of the most divided United States of America since the Civil War. We all need to do our part every day to make this world a better place in whatever capacity we can, and no act of kindness and compassion is too small.

As a slackliner, I like to say that I am constantly building 1-inch-wide bridges of nylon. Symbolically, bridges represent one of the best aspects of humankind. They bring together people who would otherwise be separated.

So let’s build bridges in 2017 (even if they’re in the form of slacklines, ski lift cables or friendships) rather than put up walls. To quote Nahko’s spiritual New Year’s Eve performance that I witnessed at The Ogden in Denver, “I have to come to build a bridge, so come let’s build.”

Mickey Wilson, 28, is a part-time ski instructor at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area.

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