On Wednesday March 11, Matthew Bramble published a long scree on his Facebook group page, Northeast Skiology on the dangers and potential impacts of the coronavirus on ski resorts and the employees, skiers and riders who frequent them.
Then, on Thursday, March 12, Matthew Bramble, a 49-year-old snowboarder who lives outside of Albany, N.Y. headed to Stratton Mountain Resort. Though the resort was open for business, he knew it would be his last day of the season. “I was filled with a sense of dread and guilt – both at the same time,” said Bramble. “Just watching the pandemic move across the world, you knew it was going to hit here.”
Bramble started snowboarding just five years ago as a way to stay in shape all winter. “I really didn’t know much about it or how to read the weather or anything,” he said in a phone interview. “But I wanted to learn.” He started following meteorologists and launched a Facebook group, Northeast Skiology where he began to post his own weather forecasts, maps and predictions. It grew. And grew.
On March 10, Bramble began polling his group about COVID-19. In his first poll, he asked if COVID 19 would be likely to affect the length of the ski season. Only 83 people believed it would be likely, compared with 891 who said it would not.
On Friday, March 13, Bramble posted another poll, asking whether ski areas should close by Monday, March 16 to protect employees and public health. Again, 669 said that ski areas should not close and 223 said they should.
“I did see a shift in opinion though as ski areas started to close and more people went back and changed their votes,” he said.
On both his page and on posts around the internet, skiers expressed anger that their ski areas were shutting down before they were ready. When Vermont Ski + Ride posted that Alterra and Vail Resorts would both be closed as of March 15 the comments ranged from “Ridiculous” to “Ski closures should be a local decision. They should not be made in a board room in Vail. Huge ski conglomerates are bad for skiing. Skiing is the perfect sport to get exercise and fresh air while social distancing.” Some of the posts criticizing areas for closing were later deleted.
“I think people were frustrated,” says Bramble, who got close to 50 days in this year. “I thought about skinning but even that can cause problems for hospitals if I get hurt or rescue personnel. Instead, I’m going to stay home and work on my house, spend time on the treadmill and try to lose 20 pounds.”