A year ago, the eastern ski community didn’t really know of Matthew Bramble. Then, in October of 2018, he launched a Facebook group called Northeast Winter Weather and Ski Conditions. NWWSC is different than other weather sources. Beyond weather forecasts, Matthew synthesizes weather information to predict ski conditions.
The group serves many northeast skiers and riders, with information they can easily use to make decisions. The group quickly gained popularity, gaining more than 3000 fans, organically, over the course of one season. We asked Matthew about his motivations and plans for the future.
NYSkiBlog: Where did you grow up? Do you have a home mountain?
Matthew Bramble: I was born in Oklahoma, but moved to the Albany area at the age of 9 and I have spent most of my life here. To me, Oklahoma is family and New York is where my friends are. I really like both places, but the skiing sucks in Oklahoma. My home mountain is the entire Northeast. We have more variety than anywhere in the world.
When did you start skiing and riding?
I skied a little bit as a teenager. In 2010 a friend took me snowboarding at West Mountain on their closing day. In the spring of 2015 I decided to try it again; I snowboarded 11 days and became addicted. My first full season I racked up 33 days and I’m doubling that now. It’s as much as I can fit in. The secret to enjoying Northeast winters is to have something fun to do outside, and fun people to enjoy it with. I’ve started to mix in some skiing with boarding to keep challenging myself.
What are your favorite mountains in the East?
I want the best conditions that I can find and a lot of varied terrain. I’m lucky to live within two hours of 12 mountains that fit that bill, and 6 hours from about 50. When things are icy, I go for who grooms the best. When there is midweek powder, I go for family resorts because I like empty slopes and the feeling of surfing fresh pow on wide open trails. When it’s all packed down, I like to charge hard on consistent groomers and do a ton of miles. I even like slipping my turns on smooth icy slopes from time to time. The biggest thing I’m after are the social aspects of the sport; I generally prefer to not to ski or ride alone.
What is the biggest challenge that you have found in skiing and riding?
The challenges in the Northeast are the weather and conditions. My first full season was 2015-2016, which was just awful for snow in the Northeast. I tried using regular weather sources for this, and I failed miserably, hitting rain instead of snow, finding fog, icy trails, you name it. I started to think flipping a coin would have been a more effective way of picking the better day than trying to plan 3 days out based on a weather site or app.
I’ve always been interested in severe weather, and for one semester I was an Atmospheric Science major. I found that many of the weather models are freely available, and a community on Twitter discussing them, however no one was focusing on more than one ski resort at a time in sufficient detail. I decided that had to up my game to figure it out. My next season the weather was better, and my snow hunting improved immensely too.
Why did you start the Facebook Group Northeast Winter Weather and Ski Conditions?
I love the sport and I like helping people. I was getting pretty good at doing this for myself. I visit about 25 different Northeast resorts every year, watch the weather models constantly and read people’s descriptions of what things are like. I came to understand how different mountains maintain their snow, and I developed a knack for extrapolating what conditions are going to be like on the slopes on a given day at a given mountain. No one was doing this for all of the Northeast, so I thought the need was there.
What has surprised you the most about the NWWSC group?
Absolutely everything. I was trying to make this about everyone, skiers and riders of all sorts from all over, and not just people like myself. I had no idea if I could do this broadly, but the feedback has been incredible, and I’m humbled by it. Many people have said that I’ve helped make their season better, or even their best, and for me that’s success.
You’re providing weather data analysis that goes beyond information. On March 23 you posted a “risk of wind hold” map that typifies this. Do you ever get push back from the mountains themselves?
Apart from big snowstorms, updates dealing with the worst weather are the most appreciated. I know that there are many resort staff members, snow reporters, managers, and some GM’s in the group. I believe I have helped them better understand what to expect as well. Some mountains do warn people about wind, rain, or icing events ahead of time, and some change their grooming and lift operations to deal with them more effectively. The weather is what it is, and 1,000 people sitting in your lodge with no terrain accessible doesn’t create happy customers and repeat business.
I believe we’re all in this together, but they need to represent their own interests first and market their resorts effectively, and I represent the interests of skiers and riders first. When I run into a group member who thanks me for warning about the winds, remarking that he brought his skins and was able to access two feet of powder because of what I said, that’s a win for everyone.
You have plans to grow NWWSC into a business?
It’s not sustainable for me to spend so much time researching and presenting this information to a large and diverse group of people, still be able to ski and ride, all while also trying to make a living. I have to figure out some way to monetize this in order to keep it going. I’ve operated an internet services business for over 20 years so there are other things that I can leverage.
Early on I asked a fellow outdoor enthusiast and business associate Brad Bansner if he was interested in doing something bigger that could justify our time while doing something that we loved. It took me a couple months to figure out what would be a good revenue model and I believe we might be able to justify our efforts if we execute well. In order to succeed we must broaden the availability of this information, add new features, and branch out into other areas beyond weather and conditions.
We chose a new name, Skiology, and will soon rebrand our efforts. This name accurately reflects what we do. Only a small part is weather, the bigger part is how that translates into the conditions that people experience. Skiology is the study of everything related to skiing.
What is the mission of Skiology? How will Skiology be different from NWWSC?
The first season was a test to see whether I could deliver reliable and accurate guidance, and to see what the reception would be. The only real difference is that we need to make this sustainable in order to justify committing the time to keep this going and to make it better. I know it’s unlikely that we will get rich from this, but if we do our jobs well, there is an opportunity for us to make this work.
Our model is to provide deep detail about every Northeast resort, accurate weather and conditions tailored to these resorts, add in news and commentary, and of course keep the community growing. We need to reach hundreds of thousands of skiers and riders in order to make it work, and if we do a good job they will come. We’d like to try to keep all of the information free, and generate revenue from things like ads, affiliate links, merchandise, and contributions. We plan to launch the first phase as a website before the next season.
Thanks for your time Matthew and good luck with the new venture.