The Man Behind the Maps – Legendary Ski Artist James Niehues
Ski resorts and trail maps are synonymous. We’ve all poured over a resort map taking in the detail in search of the best terrain and the right runs or simply to decide which way to go. You might have guessed that ski resort trail maps are digitally rendered photographs. Interestingly, the bulk of the ski area maps in North America are actually hand painted by one man, ski artist James Niehues. His work and the story of how it all happens is now available in a beautiful coffee-table book, The Man Behind the Maps – Legendary Ski Artist James Niehues.
Legendary Ski Artist James Niehues
Niehues got his start creating resort maps when he met Bill Brown who, following in the footsteps of artist Hal Shelton, drew and painted numerous resort maps in the 1970s and ’80s. Brown gave Niehues his first resort map project in 1987 to create a map for the backside expansion of Winter Park’s Mary Jane resort. By the early ’90s Niehues was working full time creating maps. Today, he has painted over 300 resort maps from around the world.
There was a moment in time when it looked like the computer might take away his livelihood. Niehues lost multiple clients to computer generated mapping, but he says many of these resorts eventually turned back to his hand painted approach and keen ability to create an accurate scale view of mountain terrain. “They wanted that [handpainted] look, I think. It’s a look you can’t get with a computer.” Niehues says.
Niehues’ work is showcased on foldable hand maps and large standalone trail guides across North America. And now his North American work is compiled into a beautiful hardcover collection worthy of ski cabins and coffee tables everywhere. The book covers his journey, the work of those who preceded him as well as the process and techniques behind his maps. Of course, The Man Behind the Maps also includes over 130 of Niehues’ hand painted maps from California to Quebec and everywhere in between.
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