Inside the World of Legendary Ski Map Illustrator James Niehues

At any time glimpse at a ski map to see wherever you are on the slopes? If you must consider that black diamond as a shortcut to meet up with your mates at the lodge, or schuss that blue sq. to save your knees? The guy to thank is James Niehues, a single of cartography’s past good analog mapmakers. Niehues has designed a vocation hand-portray ski trail maps, down to the past tree, and his maps are now collated in his new coffee-desk compilation Guy driving the Maps. Men’s Journal caught up with him for the full rap on his maps.

James Niehues Man Behind the Maps
courtesy James Niehues

MJ: What&#8217s your favorite ski space?
JAMES NIEHUES: I&#8217m usually asked this and it is tough to remedy. Truthfully, when I get out on the mountain, it’s just the exhilaration of experiencing the terrific outside and getting in the surroundings that I love—which can be knowledgeable on most each individual ski slope in The usa and all around the globe. Each and every new resort or slope is an expedition and accomplishment. For me, finding out how to ski was on-the-job training. In advance of getting a ski map illustrator I could rely the variety of instances I experienced been on skis with one particular hand. I did turn into an intermediate skier, but skied with some anxiety on lots of slopes. Potentially which is why I truly feel a perception of accomplishment each time I glide into the elevate line. If I have to select 1 unique vacation resort it would be Perisher, Australia. You park your motor vehicle in the inexperienced lush valley, get on a educate that enters a tunnel in the side of a mountain and when you arise, you are at the ski slopes. It&#8217s not a dynamic vertical (underneath 1,000 feet) but unfold out for you to check out various summits and the Snow Gum forest. It was there that I uncovered the excellent slope for my skill and last but not least recognized how it felt to be in comprehensive manage.

Australia ski resort map courtesy Perisher James Niehues
courtesy James Niehues

What&#8217s your beloved map?
I&#8217ve painted 200 resorts, with many favorites for different causes. I am a landscape painter, which suggests my favourite would have to have a visible dynamic. I technique a task by hunting at all the angles, and making the path technique as clear as probable, precise and enticing. A trail map is not only the resort&#8217s instrument to get you all-around the mountain, but their visual fingerprint each graphic portrays the mountain&#8217s person prospective that invitations further more exploration to reveal its intricacies. Some of my favorites contain Alta Big Sky Blackcomb Breckenridge Crested Butte Crystal Mountain Jackson Killington Lake Louise Mammoth Mount Baker Perisher Portillo Saddleback Ski Apache Snowbird Smuggler&#8217s Notch Telluride Treble Cone Valley Nevado or Wildcat. If these have been all framed up on a wall I would select out different consequences, shades or composition in each that would outshine the other folks.

James Niehues Alta ski are map
Niehues&#8217 1991 portray of Utah&#8217s Alta Ski Area. courtesy James Niehues

What&#8217s the trickiest aspect about generating them?
The trail method. Some are straightforward with a one confront but most resorts have a number of faces that can span 360 degrees. I have a flat, blank piece of paper in entrance of me and I will have to manipulate, or artistically interpret, a few proportions into one—and make it comprehensible and precise. If you took a satellite photo of the vacation resort, the trails are uninviting, showing slim. My position is to show them as they show up when you are on the mountain. It&#8217s all relative. My first step is to lay out all the lifts and make positive they are relative to each individual other and that their foundation is down-website page and vertical to depict the problems of the terrain it serves in relation to the other individuals. Then I’ll assessment the aerials and fill in every single elevate area with slope shading, trees with shadows, rocks and other attributes.

What was your very first ski location map?
The 1st ski vacation resort I painted was the backside of Mary Jane at Wintertime Park. I had just approached Monthly bill Brown and he had the venture which he turned above to me. He experienced a different interest he preferred to go after: filming slim gauge railroad documentaries. The initially project contracted by me was for Boreal and Soda Springs in California.

What is the last map you painted?
I’m ending up Mad River Glen appropriate now. I flew in excess of it early in my occupation while gathering aerials for the Sugarbush map. I delight in the flights and typically took benefit of photographing other resorts. During our climb the pilot looped around this scaled-down ski spot to the north. In 1990 I wasn’t that familiar with all the ski spots and didn’t know this 1. I took only a single image and later positioned it on the map, tagged and submitted it absent. Just past 12 months I got a contact from Brad Noble, who required me to paint their mountain. It would be really fitting if this was my past ski map. Mad River has these types of a good heritage and maintains its tradition in this time of mega resorts.  

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Why do you like portray ski region maps?
I was elevated on a farm in western Colorado. Our loved ones usually relished the bordering terrain with outings and picnics. At 10,000 ft, Grand Mesa was just two hours absent with fantastic fishing, and the purple sandstone canyons of Colorado Nationwide Monument had been in just an hour. Also close by was the E book Cliffs and the Colorado River. From early childhood I’ve experienced a enthusiasm for landscapes. I also adore a great puzzle. This is the mix that has retained me enthralled through the decades each individual new job is a challenge to portray the resort&#8217s slopes proficiently.

How several have you designed in excess of your career?
I&#8217ve established about 430 paintings, which includes 200 ski resorts. Others contain regional views of nationwide parks, wilderness spots and visitor bureaus, as well as golf study course and island resort maps.

James Niehues ski map painter
courtesy James Niehues

What’s changed in the approach around the yrs?
My job has spanned 35 decades. In 1988 my procedure bundled my wife Dora sending a mailing to about 400 resorts for opportunity work opportunities, which provided a sample of my newest concluded map. Then I’d pay a visit to and fly the area, taking about 10 rolls of 36 publicity movie. Then I’d evaluate the pics with the client and discuss the very best way to display screen the mountain. In the studio, I’d draw the sketch, have it blue printed and mail it to the consumer. It would take weeks ahead of I’d move forward to the portray. At the time painted I’d acquire a image of it and mail it again the earliest I could anticipate an would be about a 7 days. Then I’d consider the last authorized painting to a image lab for an 8 by 10 transparency, which would be sent out for a 4-shade separation. All the layers of form and symbols were possibly pasted or hand drawn on format boards.

Now, all the system is streamlined with electronic cameras. I just connect a image of the sketch and email it out. The shopper can edit it and return it in a issue of hours. I also scan the final painting and add it for the customer to accessibility. It saves an enormous sum of time. Today’s process also allows significantly far more control of shade and makes it less difficult to update later on.

What resort was the hardest?
Two come to mind: Mount Bachelor for its 360 degrees of skiing off the summit and Solar Peaks for the reverse, 360 levels of snowboarding out of a tight valley. Each are revealed in just one see. For Mount Bachelor, I took what I connect with a “satellite perspective” simply because its south slopes have no distinctive cuts. Whilst those people slopes are managing up-web site they look to be operating downhill from the overhead check out and color shading. Getting on the far facet, they’re foreshortened but viewers can translate by the relative visual surroundings. Sun Peaks was tougher, owning to extend lifts to get appropriate distances involving the bases and continue to keep it all relative. My previously maps showed Morrisey as an inset, as it is its personal mountain throughout from the most important slopes. Later on I extra it into 1 watch, but also had to contain the new slopes of the Orient carry, which made a big dilemma. If added into the present layout, the Orient summit would have been down-web site, which was not appropriate. By way of quite a few thumbnail sketches I lastly came up with a structure that was powerful and credible.

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

Are modern-day resorts more durable to map than more mature kinds?
I am extra involved of the slopes themselves, so it isn’t a matter of how contemporary they are, it is a issue of now significant they are. For instance, modern day Heavenly Valley’s slopes are the very same today as in before days, but there are far more foundation services. Although there may well be additional properties to paint you really do not have to adjust views to get them in. But it could be argued that today’s terrain expansions make them more difficult.

Have you ever gotten shed and needed a map?
Hell yes! At least to know what operate or spot I want to go to. Normally, very little as well really serious. Just position it downhill and you are going to get to the base inevitably.

Explain to us about the ebook
I considered that someday I’d compile sufficient ski map paintings to make an exciting coffee desk book. I envisioned it extra of an artwork e-book than a e-book of maps naming all the runs—a e-book to desire by. I required to have a area on the background of trail maps to shell out homage to my mentors Monthly bill Brown and Hal Sheldon, and I wanted a ‘how to’ area to demonstrate what it usually takes to paint a ski map. A very long time handed, and by the time I was 70, it grew to become clear that it had greater take place quickly.

Out of the blue, I bought an e mail in 2017 from a admirer seeking to know if I experienced a ebook, and if not he wanted to support me place one particular out. I realized it would be an huge process. Months passed and then we received to know Todd Bennett and Ben Farrow, who offered a offer to advertise, generate, warehouse, promote and distribute the ebook. We signed a deal on April 15, 2018.

By the end of our Kickstarter campaign the book had amassed 5,156 backers putting up above $590,000—the all-time highest-backed undertaking in its group. Then we added this sort of partners as writer Jason Blevins Cory Grosser & Associates for design and Lindsay Pierce Martin for video clip and pictures.

But I actually want to thank all the skiers and riders out there. The resorts recognized that they essential a map to aid you get all-around the mountain securely, but it is because of you that I experienced a desire position manufactured up of travel, observing and snowboarding excellent areas, traveling about some of the most dynamic spots on Earth, and photographing and painting for an field that relies on recreation. These days, the book continues to do very well and I believe I know why: We all want to hope and dream of far better times ahead. They will appear. The guide is a dream e book in which skiers can envision the slopes this coming time.

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