Ski Map Legend Compiles Book of 200 Hand-Painted Resort Trail Maps

Ever seem at a ski map to see exactly where you are on the slopes? If you must get that black diamond as a shortcut to satisfy your friends at the lodge, or schuss that blue square to save your knees? The man to thank is James Niehues, one particular of cartography’s very last great analog mapmakers. Niehues has developed a job hand-painting ski trail maps, down to the very last tree, and his maps are now collated in his new espresso-table compilation Male guiding the Maps. Men’s Journal caught up with him for the entire rap on his maps.

James Niehues Man Behind the Maps
courtesy James Niehues

MJ: What’s your beloved ski region?
JAMES NIEHUES: I’m generally questioned this and it is hard to answer. Actually, when I get out on the mountain, it is just the exhilaration of going through the great outdoor and using in the surroundings that I love—which can be skilled on most every ski slope in The united states and all around the world. Each new vacation resort or slope is an expedition and accomplishment. For me, mastering how to ski was on-the-task training. In advance of turning into a ski map illustrator I could rely the variety of situations I had been on skis with one particular hand. I did develop into an intermediate skier, but skied with some worry on several slopes. Probably that’s why I feel a perception of accomplishment anytime I glide into the elevate line. If I have to pick out one particular individual vacation resort it would be Perisher, Australia. You park your car in the eco-friendly lush valley, get on a coach that enters a tunnel in the side of a mountain and when you emerge, you are at the ski slopes. It’s not a dynamic vertical (less than 1,000 toes) but distribute out for you to take a look at numerous summits and the Snow Gum forest. It was there that I located the fantastic slope for my skill and lastly recognized how it felt to be in entire control.

Australia ski resort map courtesy Perisher James Niehues
courtesy James Niehues

What’s your beloved map?
I’ve painted 200 resorts, with several favorites for distinctive causes. I am a landscape painter, which means my beloved would have to have a visible dynamic. I tactic a challenge by hunting at all the angles, and building the trail system as distinct as feasible, correct and attractive. A trail map isn’t only the resort’s instrument to get you all around the mountain, but their visible fingerprint every impression portrays the mountain’s personal prospective that invites additional exploration to reveal its intricacies. Some of my favorites consist of Alta Large Sky Blackcomb Breckenridge Crested Butte Crystal Mountain Jackson Killington Lake Louise Mammoth Mount Baker Perisher Portillo Saddleback Ski Apache Snowbird Smuggler’s Notch Telluride Treble Cone Valley Nevado or Wildcat. If these were all framed up on a wall I would pick out distinctive effects, colors or composition in every that would outshine the other folks.

James Niehues Alta ski are map
Niehues’ 1991 painting of Utah’s Alta Ski Place. courtesy James Niehues

What’s the trickiest portion about building them?
The trail system. Some are simple with a solitary encounter but most resorts have a number of faces that can span 360 levels. I have a flat, blank piece of paper in front of me and I must manipulate, or artistically interpret, 3 dimensions into one—and make it easy to understand and correct. If you took a satellite photo of the vacation resort, the trails are uninviting, showing slender. My task is to exhibit them as they appear when you’re on the mountain. It’s all relative. My very first stage is to lay out all the lifts and make absolutely sure they’re relative to every other and that their base is down-web site and vertical to stand for the trouble of the terrain it serves in relation to the other folks. Then I’ll review the aerials and fill in every elevate region with slope shading, trees with shadows, rocks and other features.

What was your very first ski region map?
The very first ski vacation resort I painted was the backside of Mary Jane at Winter Park. I had just approached Monthly bill Brown and he had the challenge which he turned about to me. He had an additional desire he desired to pursue: filming slender gauge railroad documentaries. The very first challenge contracted by me was for Boreal and Soda Springs in California.

What’s the last map you painted?
I’m ending up Mad River Glen suitable now. I flew about it early in my job while collecting aerials for the Sugarbush map. I take pleasure in the flights and normally took edge of photographing other resorts. During our climb the pilot looped about this smaller ski region to the north. In 1990 I was not that common with all the ski places and did not know this one particular. I took only one particular photo and afterwards located it on the map, tagged and submitted it absent. Just very last year I bought a call from Brad Noble, who desired me to paint their mountain. It would be pretty fitting if this was my very last ski map. Mad River has such a great historical past and maintains its custom in this time of mega resorts.  

Why do you like painting ski region maps?
I was elevated on a farm in western Colorado. Our family members commonly relished the encompassing terrain with trips and picnics. At ten,000 toes, Grand Mesa was just two several hours absent with great fishing, and the red sandstone canyons of Colorado National Monument were within just an hour. Also near by was the Guide Cliffs and the Colorado River. From early childhood I’ve had a passion for landscapes. I also appreciate a great puzzle. This is the blend that has held me enthralled all through the yrs every new challenge is a challenge to portray the resort’s slopes effectively.

How several have you designed about your job?
I’ve designed all around 430 paintings, which incorporates 200 ski resorts. Others consist of regional views of nationwide parks, wilderness places and customer bureaus, as well as golf study course and island resort maps.

James Niehues ski map painter
courtesy James Niehues

What’s transformed in the approach about the yrs?
My job has spanned 35 yrs. In 1988 my system provided my spouse Dora sending a mailing to about 400 resorts for prospective work opportunities, which provided a sample of my hottest finished map. Then I’d stop by and fly the region, using about ten rolls of 36 publicity film. Then I’d review the images with the customer and focus on the greatest way to display screen the mountain. In the studio, I’d attract the sketch, have it blue printed and mail it to the customer. It would get weeks prior to I’d proceed to the painting. The moment painted I’d get a photo of it and mail it back the earliest I could be expecting an would be about a week. Then I’d get the remaining authorized painting to a photo lab for an eight by ten transparency, which would be despatched out for a four-coloration separation. All the layers of sort and symbols were possibly pasted or hand drawn on format boards.

Currently, all the system is streamlined with electronic cameras. I just attach a photo of the sketch and e mail it out. The customer can edit it and return it in a subject of several hours. I also scan the remaining painting and add it for the customer to obtain. It will save an enormous volume of time. Today’s system also enables a great deal more control of coloration and will make it much easier to update afterwards.

What vacation resort was the toughest?
Two appear to intellect: Mount Bachelor for its 360 levels of snowboarding off the summit and Sunlight Peaks for the reverse, 360 levels of snowboarding out of a tight valley. Both equally are shown in one particular view. For Mount Bachelor, I took what I call a “satellite perspective” simply because its south slopes have no unique cuts. Even though those slopes are operating up-web site they appear to be operating downhill from the overhead view and coloration shading. Remaining on the significantly side, they’re foreshortened but viewers can translate by the relative visible environment. Sunlight Peaks was more challenging, obtaining to extend lifts to get right distances involving the bases and hold it all relative. My previously maps confirmed Morrisey as an inset, as it is its personal mountain throughout from the main slopes. Later on I extra it into one particular view, but also had to consist of the new slopes of the Orient elevate, which designed a massive problem. If extra into the current format, the Orient summit would have been down-web site, which was not appropriate. As a result of several thumbnail sketches I lastly came up with a format that was powerful and credible.

James Niehues ski area painting Mount Bachelor
Mount Bachelor courtesy James Niehues

Are contemporary resorts more challenging to map than more mature kinds?
I am more concerned of the slopes them selves, so it isn’t a subject of how contemporary they are, it is a subject of now significant they are. For occasion, contemporary Heavenly Valley’s slopes are the exact currently as in previously days, but there are more base amenities. Even though there may possibly be more buildings to paint you don’t have to improve perspectives to get them in. But it could be argued that today’s terrain expansions make them more challenging.

Have you ever gotten shed and necessary a map?
Hell of course! At minimum to know what run or region I want to go to. Normally, practically nothing too significant. Just stage it downhill and you’ll get to the base finally.

Inform us about the ebook
I thought that someday I’d compile plenty of ski map paintings to make an intriguing espresso table ebook. I envisioned it more of an art ebook than a ebook of maps naming all the runs—a ebook to aspiration by. I desired to have a segment on the historical past of trail maps to pay homage to my mentors Monthly bill Brown and Hal Sheldon, and I desired a ‘how to’ segment to exhibit what it normally takes to paint a ski map. A prolonged time passed, and by the time I was 70, it grew to become clear that it had far better materialize quickly.

Out of the blue, I bought an e mail in 2017 from a enthusiast seeking to know if I had a ebook, and if not he desired to assist me put one particular out. I realized it would be an enormous undertaking. Months passed and then we bought to know Todd Bennett and Ben Farrow, who presented a bundle to endorse, create, warehouse, offer and distribute the ebook. We signed a offer on April fifteen, 2018.

By the end of our Kickstarter campaign the ebook had amassed five,156 backers placing up about $590,000—the all-time maximum-backed challenge in its category. Then we extra such associates as author Jason Blevins Cory Grosser & Associates for layout and Lindsay Pierce Martin for movie and images.

But I truly want to thank all the skiers and riders out there. The resorts identified that they necessary a map to assist you get all around the mountain securely, but it is simply because of you that I had a aspiration task designed up of journey, observing and snowboarding great spots, traveling about some of the most dynamic places on Earth, and photographing and painting for an industry that depends on recreation. Currently, the ebook proceeds to do well and I imagine I know why: We all need to have to hope and aspiration of far better situations in advance. They will appear. The ebook is a aspiration ebook in which skiers can envision the slopes this coming season.

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