When Mickey Wilson, the slackline hero who rescued an Arapahoe Basin skier more than two stories above the ground in 2017, answered the phone one day late last month, he was shocked into silence when he learned he’d be receiving the Carnegie Medal.
Andrew Carnegie established the Carnegie Hero Fund in 1904 to recognize outstanding acts of selfless heroism performed in the United States and Canada. Today, the commission awards the Carnegie Medal to those who risk death or serious physical injury while attempting to save the lives of others.
“When the incident first occurred, I told people not to use the ‘H’ word,” Wilson said. “I’m not a hero, I’m just a slackliner. I guess I don’t get to say that anymore.”
On Jan. 4, 2017, Wilson climbed a lift tower, slid 30 feet across the lift’s cable and cut free a skier whose backpack got caught on an Arapahoe Basin chairlift, leaving him dangling.
Wilson, of Golden, said the man was not only stuck, but he was also literally being hung by his neck by his backpack’s straps.
“That was one of the most intense moments of my life,” Wilson said. “I went into a flow state — when you’re doing what you’ve trained to do over and over again, and your brain just shuts off. I wasn’t thinking.”
Last week, the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission announced Wilson as one of 16 civilians to receive the Carnegie Medal in 2023.
“When I received the call last week, I was speechless,” Wilson said. “I didn’t know how to process it.”
According to a news release from the commission, each of the recipients will receive an unspecified financial grant. Since the fund was created in 1904, the commission has distributed more than $44 million in one-time grants, scholarship aid, death benefits and continuing assistance.
“It’s bringing back a lot of memories and emotions, good emotions,” Wilson said. “There were a lot of things that went right that day to correct a scary situation.”
Wilson said he’s stayed in touch with the man he saved, and that the skier even attended Wilson’s wedding in 2017.
“After that day, I realized life is a lot more out of our control than we realize,” Wilson said. “That man wasn’t a novice, he was an expert skier with years of experience. It really prompted me to take a more active role in my own life.”
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