Kevin Bramble was recently inducted to the National Adaptive Sports Hall of Fame. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Bramble)
One day last November, Kevin Bramble was sitting at his computer when an email caught his eye. It was from the National Adaptive Sports Hall of Fame, informing him he would be one of four new members inducted in December. The ceremony would be held in Breckenridge, Colorado, during the Hartford Ski Spectacular, one of the largest winter adaptive sports events in the country.
It was the last thing Bramble was expecting. Once the truth finally began to sink in, his initial shock turned to elation.
“I had no idea (it was coming),” recalled the 49-year-old Para alpine skier who won gold in downhill at the 2002 Winter Paralympics in Salt Lake City and again in Torino in 2006. “It was completely out of the blue. I was honored, pleasantly surprised.”
The National Adaptive Sports Hall of Fame recognizes outstanding individuals who have made significant contributions to summer and winter adaptive sports in two categories: Competitor and Contributor.
Four inductees were honored this past year, two in winter sports and two in summer. Bramble was inducted in the Winter Competitor category, while Jill Gravink, founder of the nonprofit Northeast Passage, was recognized in the Winter Contributor category. More than 650 people attended the ceremony.
“I was nervous,” Bramble said. “I got a little emotional when I started to thank my parents and my wife.”
A native of Cape May Court House, New Jersey, Bramble began skiing in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania when he was 11. His mother would drive him there on weekends, and skiing was something that came naturally to him.
“I definitely wasn’t the best of the bunch, but for some reason I just took to skiing and excelled in it right at the beginning,” Bramble recalled.
At 14, Bramble took up snowboarding, a sport that was still in its infancy at the time. It would ultimately lead to a life-altering experience.
One day in 1994, Bramble and several friends were on a snowboarding trip and hiking some cliffs when he grabbed some rocks and pitched over the falls. The impact of the 30-foot drop broke his back and left him permanently paralyzed.
“At first, it was kind of surreal,” Bramble said of the accident. “It was hard to get my head around. But at some point, you’ve just got to accept it. You just move forward and try to get back to doing the things you love to do.”
Shortly after the accident, Bramble bought a sit ski, drove to Lake Tahoe and taught himself how to monoski. He joined the Winter Park Disabled Ski Team before being named to the U.S. national team in 1998. Three years later, he won gold in downhill at the world cup in Snowbasin, Utah. Then came the Paralympics, where he captured gold in back-to-back Games.
Bramble also became passionate about freestyle and extreme monoskiing. He successfully lobbied to have mono skier X included in the X Games, where he won a bronze medal in 2016. He was also featured in the 2006 Warren Miller ski movie “Off the Grid”, an experience he’ll never forget.
“I was at a ski race in Colorado,” he recalled. “They called and (asked) would I like to go to Alaska and be a part of a Warren Miller film. Obviously, I was honored.”
Bramble’s contributions to adaptive skiing go well beyond his race results. Not content with the monoskis on the market, he started designing his own. In 1999, he formed Kevin Bramble Goodz, a company that offers monoskis and other adaptive equipment. He also developed the Terra, an adaptive four-wheel downhill mountain bike with full electric power.
“The stuff I was riding kept breaking,” Bramble explained. “It just wasn’t up to performing how I wanted, so I started building my own.”
Bramble isn’t one to dwell on his success. He doesn’t pull out his Paralympic medals and reminisce. In fact, he’s not entirely sure where they are.
“I think they may be down at my mom’s house,” he said.
That doesn’t mean the competitive fire has gone out, though. Bramble is considering a Paralympic comeback for the 2026 Winter Games in Milano-Cortina, Italy. He would be 53 then, but his mental focus is much different now than it was in 2002 and 2006.
“(Winning) had driven me for quite a while,” Bramble said. “That’s all I focused on. I think this time around if I make it, I’d take more of it in and absorb more of the whole event and not just be so focused on winning.”
Whether his comeback becomes a reality or not, Bramble is in a good place mentally. He enjoys spending time with his wife Kira, whom he married a year ago. He’s constantly innovating, always working to improve the quality of life for Para athletes and others trying to come to grips with their disability. His advice to them is simple but filled with personal experience.
“Do the things that make you happy,” he said.