Emergency in Zillertal Valley

Alice Herrmann and Erwin Achleitner had so been looking forward to their holiday in the mountains. Neither of them expected to be faced with a snow-covered icy patch.


«We never would have thought that something like that could happen to us as we are always so careful,» say Alice and Erwin. Both of them ski regularly and safely, which is why until now they had not thought about accidents. This was also the case when they travelled to the Zillertal Valley last February. There was lots of snow on the ground and the sun was shining – perfect conditions. «We wanted to enjoy a nice day’s skiing on the slopes and relax in a cosy atmosphere afterwards in the hotel.»

However, things did not go according to plan. It happened on the Hintertux Glacier: Alice overlooked an icy patch which was lightly covered in snow. Her legs failed her, causing her to fall. The bindings failed to open. Her right leg was twisted and she could not feel it. «That was it. Now I’ll never be able to walk again,» is what suddenly occurred to Alice. Erwin immediately skied over to her. Even though he was hardly able to stand on the icy patch, he tried to take his partner’s skis off. Other skiers stopped to ask them if they needed any help. One of them was even a doctor. He quickly established that Alice had fairly certainly fractured her neck of femur. Another skier dialled the ski resort’s emergency number. A snow groomer picked Alice up and transported her to the helicopter because it was unable to land on the steep slope. «It was only at this point that the shock took hold of me. I started to realise what had just happened,» remembers Erwin. Alice was flown to hospital in Halle. Diagnosis: fractured neck of femur. She was already operated on shortly afterwards. Erwin contacted Helsana’s Emergency Call Centre the following day.

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It was a weight off his shoulders «because I didn’t have to worry about organising anything else after that. At the same time, I was always kept informed of all steps.» Erwin visited his partner in hospital every day and only left one day before her transfer to Switzerland. Alice was taken by ambulance to Zug Cantonal Hospital where she remained for another week. She was on crutches for two months and was not allowed to put weight on her leg. She regularly attended therapy sessions. «It was strenuous. I had to fight,» says Alice in a quiet voice. She was still in great pain all the time. The reason for it soon became clear: the screw used had to be replaced. It was too long. That is why Alice was operated on again on 29 May.

The therapy ended two months later. It was the first time Alice was able to cycle into town again – a real highlight for this woman who enjoys exercising. Alice is beaming when she says: «That was the best news all year!» She is finally no longer reliant on assistance from others. All's well that ends well. Erwin and Alice are still very grateful to this day that they were mainly able to concentrate on Alice’s recovery during that period. «The support we received from Helsana took a lot of the burden off us,» emphasises Erwin. «For example, we did not have to worry about repatriation and settling hospital bills. That was super.» Both of them definitely learnt an important lesson from this incident: «From now on, we will always have the respective emergency telephone numbers of both the ski resort and Helsana with us at all times.»


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