Freeskier Fabian Lentsch in Wheelchair and Relearning to Walk After Paragliding Accident 11-Weeks Ago

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Fabian Lentsch
Credit: Fabian Lentsch

Big mountain freerider Fabian Lentsch, 29, shared on Instagram yesterday how his life has been turned upside down following a paragliding accident in the Himalayas that has left him wheelchair-bound and in hospital for eleven weeks.

Austrian Lentsch, a Red Bull athlete, was on a three-month trip to India to learn yoga, travel, trek, and scout some ski lines when a routine paragliding flight turned bad. Following spinal surgery, the freeskier is now relearning to walk and following a strict daily training program to build back strength, stability, and movement in his feet.

Fabian Lentsch
Credit: Fabian Lentsch

It’s difficult to predict the outcomes of these types of injuries, although according to Lentsch, making quick progress in a short period of time is a good indicator.

Here’s his Instagram post in full:

Today I‘m counting my 11th week in -by now- the fourth hospital. Unfortunately so far it’s also the 11th week being forced into a wheelchair. ⁣⁣

It all started like so many trips in the past. I wanted to stay three months in India, learn Yoga for two months and in between spending a month in the mighty Himalayas. Traveling, trekking and doing some research for a future skiing project. Just when I thought how this trip couldn’t get any better, one day, out of the blue, everything changed in an instant. I crashed with my paraglider during a routine flight and immediately couldn’t move my legs like I used to. My hand was severely broken and the whole body hurt like I’ve never experienced or even imagined before. Getting a helicopter rescue in this extremely remote region with very limited reception seemed quite impossible but somehow, Mara who was traveling with me, pulled off a miracle. It took them four very painful hours in the heat for the heli to arrive, flying me one hour to a very rudimentary hospital where we unfortunately got stuck for three days without any treatment. The CT scan showed an exploded vertebra in my lower back narrowing the spinal cord from 12 to 9mm. Bad news since I still hoped for a broken pelvic or hip which could have limited my movements. At least it seemed to be an incomplete spinal cord injury and some of my muscles above the knees were still working. ⁣⁣
Then it was all about getting to New Delhi as soon as possible to have surgery on my spine. A probably false, non repeatable covid test and some other factors like being stuck in a military non-fly zone made it very difficult to get out of there. After lying in one position for three days the Indian Airforce finally, after much back and forth, managed to fly us to Delhi. 80 tough hours since the accident I was in good medical care and got my spine surgery the same day. I have to thank a full list of people (incl. my parents, the Austrian embassy, the team at Red Bull, my agent Karin, my old and new local friends and of course Mara for being on my side during all of this) who all have put in countless hours to get me out of there. I can’t thank everyone enough.

Fabian Lentsch grew up on the slopes in Innsbruck, Austria. When he was 15 years old, he won the first two freeskiing competitions he entered, setting the course for his life.

Fabian went on to compete in numerous competitions and secured a string of podium finishes before securing a place on the Freeride World Tour in 2015. Soon after this accomplishment, Fabian decided to take a break from competition to concentrate on exploring new regions and documenting his travels. His first film, Passenger, was released in late 2015 and he’s barely stopped traveling since.

Alongside longtime friend Markus Ascher, he’s traveled to Greece, Georgia, and Iran in pursuit of perfect powder and newfound cultural experiences. Snowmads: A Journey Towards Eastern Suns in 2016 was the first of four (so far) Snowmads films showcasing his nomadic adventures in a converted fire truck. Since then he’s released Ya Mas – Snowmads in Greece (2017), Snowmads – Sense of Home (2019), and Snowmads – A Foreign Native (2022).

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