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James Niehues: Ski Resort Trail Map Painter
April 28, 2007 1:36 PM   Subscribe

"First of all, it's a map; second, it's a piece of art." Look closely at the corner of a North American ski resort trail map and you will probably see James Niehues' name tucked away in the trees. Examples of his work include Alta, Snow Basin, Winter Park, Killington and Vail.
posted by mmascolino (17 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's great, I've personally noticed a certain style to ski maps and had wondered if it was a tight click of artists or not.
posted by furtive at 1:46 PM on April 28, 2007


I've personally noticed a certain style to ski maps

You're not the only one furtive. Niehue's maps look pretty much like every other trail map I've even seen.
posted by three blind mice at 1:52 PM on April 28, 2007


Looks like the Jackson Hole map that three blind mice referenced was painted by Niehues.
posted by mmascolino at 2:07 PM on April 28, 2007


When tackling larger projects, like Whistler Blackcomb or Killington, Niehues likes to ski the area to get a feel for the resort and how everything relates to one another.

Sure...he gets free lift tickets to "get a feel for the resort".
posted by smackfu at 2:15 PM on April 28, 2007


Certainly not a perk that one should turn down.
posted by mmascolino at 2:17 PM on April 28, 2007


Looks like the Jackson Hole map

Well there you go! I thought I recognized his style. His rendition of the Hobacks was a bit too understated though. I got "a real feel for the resort" there along with some nasty bruises.
posted by three blind mice at 3:04 PM on April 28, 2007


My wife and I have joked for years that James Niehues is our favorite artist. Thanks for posting this -- it's great to learn something about him.
posted by harkin banks at 3:08 PM on April 28, 2007


wondered if it was a tight click of artists or not

That's 'clique'. Pronounced 'cleek'.

And I absolutely love maps like this, where the point is relative information as opposed to pure geography.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 3:25 PM on April 28, 2007


I wonder why the Sugarbush map isn't included on his Eastern ski map page.
posted by Mblue at 4:25 PM on April 28, 2007


Niehue's Whistler-Blackcomb map is fairly odd, which I guess is unavoidable given the constraint of having to twist everything to be visible from one perspective. However, there are lots of strange features on his map that could easily be made to look more like the real thing. This is particularly puzzling considering how accurately he renders much of the terrain lying outside the boundary. For example, he paints the Spearhead Glacier and Don't Swill quite accurately, but fails to accurately portray the ridge between these aforementioned places and the inbounds, namely Husume, Corona Bowl and the Poop Chutes.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 4:25 PM on April 28, 2007


Ok, the Poop Chutes aren't quite visible, instead we get a bizzare representation of the NE butress of Mt. Phalanx, Which appears to be much higher than Phalanx itself, but I just wanted to say Poop Chutes.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 4:33 PM on April 28, 2007


Niehue's maps look pretty much like every other trail map I've even seen.

Not so much at smaller hills (though I was surprised to run into this earlier this year at this tiny-but-awesome area.)

It takes a good eye to make a map that looks like a mountain with trees without getting flat results. Also, many smaller areas' maps are little more than schematics. And others, just tacky.

For day trippers, many of whom have little more than brochures to go on before deciding whether to make the haul, an area with a nice map just feels like a more substantial area. I don't doubt that Nieheus's clients feel the same way, and spend up to add to their areas' appeal.

For a great look at how map styles have varied over the years, check out some old brochures from the teachski.com collection, as well as the excellent New England Lost Ski Areas Project.
posted by Opposite George at 4:36 PM on April 28, 2007 [2 favorites]




Niehues took over the trail map mantel from Bill C. Brown, who was the 900-lb. gorilla of the trail map industry until he retired. Since then, Niehues has been the top artist for such work.

However, I'm starting to see resorts use Google Earth/VirtualEarth renderings for new maps, so... we'll see what happens.
posted by songfta at 4:50 PM on April 28, 2007


I've only gone skiing twice in my life, but this is a really neat post. Thanks. I just sent a bunch of the links in this thread to a cartographer pal who's written about map art; he'll love it.
posted by mediareport at 8:03 PM on April 28, 2007


Great post; great comment too Opposite George!
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:00 PM on April 28, 2007


I'm enjoying watching the overlaid data load a piece at a time in the .pdf of my ski resort of choice's map. The art, the map.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:29 PM on April 29, 2007


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