The One about the Snowmobile and the Collapsed Lung

We went to Whistler, BC for a little winter Christmas getaway recently. The plan was to get up there Sunday Dec 21 and return home Friday Dec 26.

Map picture

Whistler is a short drive from Seattle, so we headed off on a little road trip. We had been meaning to make the trip up I-5 for a while.


We had left behind a snowy Seattle which was experiencing it’s own Snowpocalypse.

In Whistler, we wanted to experience the whole winter wonderland thing, so the kids had ski lessons

Emma Arrigo Billy Arrigo Brice Arrigo

and they even got to make gingerbread houses.

Emma Arrigo Brice Arrigo

I wanted to get in on the fun, so we made plans to go out on a snowmobile tour, run by Outdoor Adventures.

Seemed like a good idea at the time.

On the morning of December 24th, Emma, Billy and I headed down to the pickup point. It was to be a 2 hour round trip.

We were driving up to the starting point on a trail on Cougar Mountain, Whistler’s 3rd mountain, where we were introduced to the vehicles and given the instructions on how to drive.

Following the safety talk, we were off – there was even a photographer handy to capture these brave explorer.

Frank on the snowmobile

After about 30 minutes driving along the trail, we stopped to rest. We had made it to the top of Cougar Mountain, so we took a moment to enjoy the lovely scene.

Billy, Emma and Frank

Billy, Emma and Frank

As we were getting ready to head back down the trail, our guide said that there had been a lot of snow overnight, and that the path was steep and slippery. He recommended we take it slow down the trail. Hand on the brake.

Then we started the descent.

Well. He wasn’t kidding.

I was coming down the mountain extra cautiously. So cautiously I got stuck in the snow. I gave my vehicle a bit of throttle to get moving again.

The next few minutes are a bit fuzzy – what I remember was that I overshot a tight left hand corner, and crashed into an embankment. I was then flung over the top of the snowmobile and *flew* into the trees. I landed with a thud on my left hand side, slid down a bit and was stopped by something which my right shoulder hit. The next thing I know I’m staring straight up into the sky and people are yelling at me not to move.

Let’s reference the official “Snowmobile Tour Incident Report” for what happened next.

Snowmobile Tour Incident Report

As I was transported by toboggan to the Cougar Mountain Snowmobile Base, I felt every rock, every bump on that ride.

Once the ambulance got us to the Whistler Emergency Medical Clinic, there was a quick triage as the doctors poked and prodded me.

They discovered the pain in my chest was a Pneumothorax, or collapsed lung. That explains why it hurt so much when I tried to breath!
Frank in Hospital

The medical team moved quickly and inserted a chest tube to deal with the most serious of my injuries, Everything else would have to wait.

Following the procedure, I was transferred to another hospital, located in the little town of Squamish, an hour from Whistler.

Map picture

So, after another ambulance ride, I find myself in the Squamish General Hospital on Christmas Eve.

All night i was thinking that I was the father who ruined Christmas for his four children!


On Christmas Day, my family made the trip down the hill, and they were happy to see me.

Christmas Day with Brice, Emma and Bill

My other injuries were just some bumps an bruises. No broken bones. No lacerations. No major damage

The Big Bruise

On Dec 28 the chest tube came out and 7 days later, I had the stitches removed.

I was in hospital all up from Dec 24 to Dec 29. Every day I would have a series of x-rays to check how my lungs were doing.

Frank in Hospital 

We made the trip back home on Dec 29. We had stayed a few days longer than we had planned and the kids were all looking forward to get back home.

While in hospital, I didn’t have access to the internet, but I could send SMS, so I sent a simple message to Twitter


This little message was also pushed to my facebook status and the number of comments I got from friends was staggering. Thank you all for kind thoughts and words.

So, here I am, a little under two weeks from the accident and I am starting to feel a bit better. It’s going to take time for the bruises to go away, and for the little pains to go, but I am thankful that I didn’t have more serious injuries. While in hospital I saw folks come in with broken arms, broken legs and spinal damage. And let’s not forget about those snowmobilers in Fernie B.C.

I got a few bumps and bruises. I’ll be ok.

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