Inside the World of Legendary Ski Map Illustrator James Niehues

Ever have a look at a ski map to see the place you’re on the slopes? If you must take that black diamond as a shortcut to fulfill your pals at the lodge, or schuss that blue sq. to save lots of your knees? The man to thank is James Niehues, one of cartography’s final nice analog mapmakers. Niehues has constructed a profession hand-painting ski path maps, all the way down to the final tree, and his maps are actually collated in his new coffee-table compilation Man behind the Maps. Men’s Journal caught up with him for the full rap on his maps.

courtesy James Niehues

MJ: What’s your favourite ski space?
JAMES NIEHUES: I’m at all times requested this and it’s tough to reply. Honestly, after I get out on the mountain, it’s simply the exhilaration of experiencing the nice open air and taking in the surroundings that I really like—which might be skilled on most each ski slope in America and round the world. Each new resort or slope is an expedition and accomplishment. For me, studying easy methods to ski was on-the-job coaching. Before turning into a ski map illustrator I may rely the quantity of instances I had been on skis with one hand. I did develop into an intermediate skier, however skied with some worry on many slopes. Perhaps that’s why I really feel a way of accomplishment at any time when I glide into the raise line. If I’ve to decide on one specific resort it might be Perisher, Australia. You park your automobile in the inexperienced lush valley, get on a practice that enters a tunnel in the aspect of a mountain and whenever you emerge, you’re at the ski slopes. It’s not a dynamic vertical (below 1,000 toes) however unfold out so that you can discover varied summits and the Snow Gum forest. It was there that I discovered the excellent slope for my potential and eventually understood the way it felt to be in full management.

Australia ski resort map courtesy Perisher James Niehuescourtesy James Niehues

What’s your favourite map?
I’ve painted 200 resorts, with many favorites for various causes. I’m a panorama painter, which implies my favourite must have a visible dynamic. I method a venture by taking a look at all the angles, and making the path system as clear as potential, correct and attractive. A path map isn’t solely the resort’s instrument to get you round the mountain, however their visible fingerprint; every picture portrays the mountain’s particular person potential that invitations additional exploration to disclose its intricacies. Some of my favorites embody Alta; Big 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 had been all framed up on a wall I’d select totally different results, colours or composition in every that might outshine the others.

James Niehues Alta ski are mapNiehues’ 1991 portray of Utah’s Alta Ski Area. courtesy James Niehues

What’s the trickiest half about making them?
The path system. Some are straightforward with a single face however most resorts have a number of faces that may span 360 levels. I’ve a flat, clean piece of paper in entrance of me and I have to manipulate, or artistically interpret, three dimensions into one—and make it comprehensible and correct. If you took a satellite tv for pc picture of the resort, the trails are uninviting, showing slim. My job is to point out them as they seem whenever you’re on the mountain. It’s all relative. My first step is to put out all the lifts and ensure they’re relative to one another and that their base is down-page and vertical to signify the problem of the terrain it serves in relation to the others. Then I’ll evaluate the aerials and fill in every raise space with slope shading, bushes with shadows, rocks and different options.

What was your first ski space map?
The first ski resort I painted was the bottom of Mary Jane at Winter Park. I had simply approached Bill Brown and he had the venture which he turned over to me. He had one other curiosity he needed to pursue: filming slim gauge railroad documentaries. The first venture contracted by me was for Boreal and Soda Springs in California.

What’s the final map you painted?
I’m ending up Mad River Glen proper now. I flew over it early in my profession whereas gathering aerials for the Sugarbush map. I take pleasure in the flights and sometimes took benefit of photographing different resorts. During our climb the pilot looped over this smaller ski space to the north. In 1990 I wasn’t that accustomed to all the ski areas and didn’t know this one. I took just one picture and later positioned it on the map, tagged and filed it away. Just final yr I received a name from Brad Noble, who needed me to color their mountain. It can be very becoming if this was my final ski map. Mad River has such an incredible historical past and maintains its custom on this time of mega resorts.  

Why do you want portray ski space maps?
I used to be raised on a farm in western Colorado. Our household often loved the surrounding terrain with journeys and picnics. At 10,000 toes, Grand Mesa was simply two hours away with nice fishing, and the crimson sandstone canyons of Colorado National Monument had been inside an hour. Also shut by was the Book Cliffs and the Colorado River. From early childhood I’ve had a ardour for landscapes. I additionally love a very good puzzle. This is the mixture that has saved me enthralled all through the years; every new venture is a problem to painting the resort’s slopes successfully.

How many have you ever remodeled your profession?
I’ve created round 430 work, which incorporates 200 ski resorts. Others embody regional views of nationwide parks, wilderness areas and customer bureaus, in addition to golf course and island resort maps.

James Niehues ski map paintercourtesy James Niehues

What’s modified in the method over the years?
My profession has spanned 35 years. In 1988 my course of included my spouse Dora sending a mailing to about 400 resorts for potential jobs, which included a pattern of my newest completed map. Then I’d go to and fly the space, taking about 10 rolls of 36 publicity movie. Then I’d evaluate the pictures with the shopper and focus on the greatest method to show the mountain. In the studio, I’d draw the sketch, have it blue printed and mail it to the shopper. It would take weeks earlier than I’d proceed to the portray. Once painted I’d take a photograph of it and mail it again; the earliest I may count on an can be a couple of week. Then I’d take the remaining permitted portray to a photograph lab for an eight by 10 transparency, which might be despatched out for a four-color separation. All the layers of sort and symbols had been both pasted or hand drawn on structure boards.

Today, all the course of is streamlined with digital cameras. I simply connect a photograph of the sketch and e mail it out. The shopper can edit it and return it in a matter of hours. I additionally scan the remaining portray and add it for the shopper to entry. It saves an infinite quantity of time. Today’s course of additionally permits way more management of colour and makes it simpler to replace later.

What resort was the hardest?
Two come to thoughts: Mount Bachelor for its 360 levels of snowboarding off the summit; and Sun Peaks for the reverse, 360 levels of snowboarding out of a decent valley. Both are proven in a single view. For Mount Bachelor, I took what I name a “satellite perspective” as a result of its south slopes haven’t any distinct cuts. Although these slopes are working up-page they look like working downhill from the overhead view and colour shading. Being on the far aspect, they’re foreshortened however viewers can translate by the relative visible environment. Sun Peaks was more durable, having to stretch lifts to get correct distances between the bases and maintain all of it relative. My earlier maps confirmed Morrisey as an inset, because it’s its personal mountain throughout from the essential slopes. Later I added it into one view, but in addition needed to embody the new slopes of the Orient raise, which created an enormous downside. If added into the current structure, the Orient summit would have been down-page, which wasn’t acceptable. Through many thumbnail sketches I lastly got here up with a structure that was efficient and credible.

James Niehues ski area painting Mount BachelorMount Bachelor courtesy James Niehues

Are trendy resorts more durable to map than older ones?
I’m extra involved of the slopes themselves, so it isn’t a matter of how trendy they’re, it’s a matter of now huge they’re. For occasion, trendy Heavenly Valley’s slopes are the identical in the present day as in earlier days, however there are extra base services. Although there could also be extra buildings to color you don’t have to vary views to get them in. But it might be argued that in the present day’s terrain expansions make them more durable.

Have you ever gotten misplaced and wanted a map?
Hell sure! At least to know what run or space I wish to go to. Otherwise, nothing too critical. Just level it downhill and also you’ll get to the base ultimately.

Tell us about the e-book
I believed that sometime I’d compile sufficient ski map work to make an fascinating espresso desk e-book. I envisioned it extra of an artwork e-book than a e-book of maps naming all the runs—a e-book to dream by. I needed to have a bit on the historical past of path maps to pay homage to my mentors Bill Brown and Hal Sheldon, and I needed a ‘how to’ part to point out what it takes to color a ski map. A very long time handed, and by the time I used to be 70, it turned obvious that it had higher occur quickly.

Out of the blue, I received an e mail in 2017 from a fan desirous to know if I had a e-book, and if not he needed to assist me put one out. I knew it might be an infinite job. Months handed after which we received to know Todd Bennett and Ben Farrow, who introduced a bundle to advertise, produce, warehouse, promote and distribute the e-book. We signed a deal on April 15, 2018.

By the finish of our Kickstarter marketing campaign the e-book had amassed 5,156 backers placing up over $590,000—the all-time highest-backed venture in its class. Then we added such companions as author Jason Blevins; Cory Grosser & Associates for design; and Lindsay Pierce Martin for video and images.

But I actually wish to thank all the skiers and riders on the market. The resorts acknowledged that they wanted a map that will help you get round the mountain safely, but it surely’s as a result of of you that I had a dream job made up of journey, seeing and snowboarding nice locations, flying over some of the most dynamic spots on Earth, and photographing and portray for an business that depends on recreation. Today, the e-book continues to do properly and I believe I do know why: We all must hope and dream of higher instances forward. They will come. The e-book is a dream e-book wherein skiers can envision the slopes this coming season.

Get it


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