Mapmaker James Nieheus is an icon in the skiing planet


A lot more than after in my many decades of skiing in the West, I’ve gotten lost on a mountain. And lots of instances, I’ve pulled out my James Niehues trail map to get back to a lift or the resort’s lodge. The watercolor maps, which are also posted in huge scale about resorts, have guided numerous skiers and snowboarders more than the years considering that the 73-year-old started painting them in 1987.

Niehues (pronounced “Nee-hews”), who lives outdoors Denver, has developed hundreds of maps for ski locations about the nation, which includes far more than a dozen resorts in California, such as Mammoth Mountain, Squaw Valley and Heavenly at least two in South America’s Andes far more than a dozen in Canada six in New Zealand and a single in Serbia. He was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame this year for his outstanding artwork on maps that lots of skiers use after and throw away.

James Niehues created the map of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.

James Niehues developed the map of Mammoth Mountain Ski Location in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.

(Open Road Ski Organization)

Now Niehues, who has been known as the “Rembrandt of snow,” has published a hefty coffee table book with a collection of practically all of his hand-painted maps. “James Niehues: The Man Behind the Map” was launched as a Kickstarter campaign, which attracted donations from five,000 individuals.

He got his commence in the planet of art when his mother purchased him an oil painting set although he was recovering from an illness throughout his freshman year in higher college. More than the decades, his maps have gained appreciation as artwork in their personal appropriate. They’ve been shown in at least a single New York City gallery, and a single produced the cover of “Mind the Map,” a 2016 collection of illustrated cartography sold in art museums.

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I’ve kept some of his maps from my trips and have taken them out from time to time to muse more than runs down slopes. I spoke with him soon after the book was released about his craft.

Did you develop up skiing?

No, I was raised on a hog farm outdoors Loma, Colo., not far from the Utah border. I spread a lot of pig manure on fields throughout my youth, sufficient to know I didn’t want to do that for a living. I went to Mesa State College in Grand Junction for a year. I didn’t commence skiing till I joined the Army in the late 1960s and was stationed in Europe. I initial skied on a compact resort in the Austrian Alps. When I got back to Colorado, I skied at Powderhorn, close to Grand Junction, and fell a lot. I walked down the slope and quite a lot gave it up for the subsequent 15 years.

How did you get into painting ski trail maps? That appears like such a tiny niche industry.

Detail shot from one of James Niehues’ illustrations for Snow Country Magazine.

Detail shot from a single of James Niehues’ illustrations for Snow Nation Magazine.

(Carlos Valle / Open Road Ski Organization)

It is. There are not lots of individuals undertaking it. Soon after the service, I worked in a print shop and then for an ad agency. Then I moved to Denver and struggled as a freelance artist. I looked up Bill Brown since I admired his ski resort maps. He liked my portfolio, and he turned more than a compact job to me at Winter Park in Colorado. That got me began, and the initial contract I got on my personal was for the Boreal and Soda Springs resorts on Donner Summit close to Lake Tahoe. I also began undertaking maps and illustrations for Snow Nation Magazine.

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How did you understand to draw maps?

I’m quite a lot self-taught. But Bill Brown was my mentor, in the starting.

When did you get back on the slopes?

Soon after I began generating maps. I got to be an intermediate [skier] in my prime. I had a single instructor at a Colorado resort who told me, soon after he’d picked me up for the fourth time, that he believed the guy who painted all these maps would be capable to ski greater. But the snow was choppy, and I couldn’t manage it. [Laughs.] I do not ski a lot any longer, but I’m nonetheless hiking a lot.

How do you make your maps?

I adore photography and I shoot a lot of images of the mountain. I’ve also made use of topographical maps and even satellite photos. If the price range permits, I’ll fly more than the slopes in a compact plane and get to know the resorts as most effective I can. Then I’ll do a series of sketches and, soon after I get the approval, it requires two or 3 week to paint a map, adding shadow, detail, clouds and points like that.

What had been you paid for your artwork, then and now?

It depended on the size of the resort. … I was acquiring a minimum of $1,800 for a compact location, $six,500 for a midsize resort and far more for a huge a single. But when computer systems came in, the spend flattened, and it was tougher to make a living. … Now, I’d say I get about $15,000 for a definitely significant resort. But the other prices, sadly, haven’t gone up a lot more than time.

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What do you believe of laptop-generated maps?

The book “James Niehues: The Man Behind the Maps”

The book, “James Niehues: The Man Behind the Maps,” began as a Kickstarter campaign.

(Carlos Valle / Open Road Ski Organization)

There is no comparison to what I do. Effectively, OK, on a single fundamental level they are comparable since they are each tools for individuals to know exactly where they are. But I make a mood with my maps since of the way I interpret the terrain and the trees and the shadowing. When you appear at a hand-painted map, you can sense what the artist is portraying.

Have computer systems threatened your livelihood?

About 2000, when they came on the scene, instances got slow and I lost really a couple of jobs. It was tight then and I had to appear for other perform. But I got by means of, and the ski locations came back about. In a excellent year, I’d paint 20 to 25 maps. I sign my perform, since the resorts object if I do not. I paint each and every person tree, but I have a method that I use to place down a background of trees quite swiftly.

Do you have a favourite ski resort?

Not definitely, but I am sort of fond of Powderhorn, since that is exactly where my children discovered to ski.

How extended do you believe you will continue to do this?

As extended as I take pleasure in it. I just completed up a new version of Sun Peaks in British Columbia. And this previous summer time, I painted new maps for Ski Santa Fe in New Mexico, Mount Bachelor in Oregon, Sugar Mountain in North Carolina and Wolf Creek in Colorado close to Durango, Colo.

Information: “James Niehues: The Man Behind the Map” expenses $90 maps of person resorts, $40 each and every. Order at Niehues will be signing books Dec. 7 at the Ski Dazzle Show at the Los Angeles Convention Center.