Legendary ski resort map artist James Niehues has announced on his blog and on Twitter that he will be “stepping away from creating ski resort trail maps” after more than three decades. He plans to work on other projects, including the American Landscape Project, and will, for the first time, be selling original paintings and sketches of his ski resort trail maps later this month.
The Guardian: “Scottish mountaineering charities have criticised Google for suggesting routes up Ben Nevis and other mountains they say are ‘potentially fatal’ and direct people over a cliff.” Google Maps’s issue with Ben Nevis is that it routes to a parking lot nearest the summit, then more or less straight-lines it from there; as a dotted line it’s meant to indicate a route very imprecisely, but it also corresponds to a higher-difficulty ascent route that could land even experienced hikers in trouble. Not meant to be taken by people who don’t know what they’re doing—the people who might have no clue that it’s a bad idea to use Google Maps for mountain hiking, for example.
To be clear, I think this one’s on Google. A lot of people trust online maps implicitly because they have poor navigation skills and have a hard time overruling what the directions tell them: this is why people keep driving into rivers and onto tracks. It’s a design failure not to account for this in every circumstance.
Hans on the Bike has produced a map of the Ottawa-Gatineau bicycle path network in the style of a Beck-style subway network map. “Is a metro map for cycling useful? I think it has a function in visualizing a network in an easy and pleasing way,” he writes. “In the end it is more a fun project than a bike map avant la lettre.”
Nothing wrong with it as a fun exercise, but can it actually be used? As someone who back in the day biked quite a lot of the Ottawa and Gatineau bike trail network, I can’t use this map. I don’t recognize the path network. Part of it is because many of those paths have names that he doesn’t use; part of it is the conceit of creating “stations”; part of it is that a surface path network that can be entered or exited at any point is not well served by a network diagram. It makes sense to abstract a subway network from the street level, because you’re basically travelling from station to station. You’re not doing that on a bike; you’re in the neighbourhood.
In an interview with Atlas Obscura’s Max Ufberg, legendary ski resort map artist James Niehues (no stranger to us here at The Map Room: previously) discusses some of the challenges involved in creating his paintings. For example:
What’s the most challenging aspect of the work?
Showing all the trails in the most understandable and navigational way. It may not always be in one view, but I strive for the single view because it leaves no doubt about any trail connections or direction. Many mountains have slopes on more than one face, which requires manipulating the features to show the back side with the front on a flat sheet of paper. This has to be done with care since skiers will be referring to the image to choose their way down; all elements have to be relative to what they are experiencing on the mountain.
The Australian government agency responsible for printing topographic maps will stop printing them as of December, ABC Australia reports. Geoscience Australia cites a lack of demand for paper maps, but as you can imagine there’s some pushback against the decision.
(The Canadian government tried something similar back in 2006, but the decision was overturned after a public outcry.)
The book is nearly 300 pages long, contains more than 200 ski resort maps, and costs $90. That seems high, but printing a full-colour book in small or print-on-demand batches doesn’t come cheap.
Previously: Crowdfunding a Book of James Niehues’s Ski Resort Art; A Video Profile of James Niehues, Ski Resort Map Artist; James Niehues Passes the Torch; James Niehues’s Ski Resort Maps; James Niehues Profile.
Keith Myrmel, a retired landscape architect from Minnesota, has produced two maps of the Boundary Waters region that are proving popular with hikers and canoers. The maps—one of the Superior Hiking Trail, the other of the North Country Trail and Arrowhead region—are large (26 by 40 inches) and intricately hand-drawn. The Twin Cities Pioneer Press covered Myrmel and his work last June:
“It’s fascinating how many people are map lovers,” Myrmel said. He has an extensive collection of Boundary Waters Wilderness maps dating back to the 1950s. “I said, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this old-school style. It’s all by hand.”
Using pencils, markers and watercolor paint, he put down information from books, maps, the internet and personal experience on a 2-by-13-foot map. The process took hundreds of hours, he said.
We’ve talked about James Niehues before: the legendary artist has painted hundreds of maps of ski resorts and recreational areas since the late 1980s. I was excited to learn that he’s producing a coffee table book that includes all of his maps. It’s being crowdfunded on Kickstarter. Pledging $75 or more gets you a copy of the book; other pledge levels get you a high-quality print. Clearly there’s some interest: at the moment the project has raised more than $223,000 from nearly 2,000 backers, 28 times its target of $8,000, with three weeks still to go. [Kottke]
Every now and again I discover another local mapmaking company whose products are familiar to, even well-loved by, well, the locals, but not much known elsewhere: the A-Z maps and London; the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer; Kroll and Seattle; Wunnenberg and St. Louis; Sherlock and Winnipeg (that one I knew about, being from there). Add another company to that list: Purple Lizard Maps, which produces a line of outdoor recreation maps that focuses mostly (but not exclusively) on central Pennsylvania. The Center County Gazette talks to Michael Hermann, who founded Purple Lizard in 1997. [WMS]
The Guardian reports on the worst-selling Ordnance Survey map, which I suspect will very quickly cease to be the worst-selling map thanks to the news coverage. It’s OS Explorer 440: Glen Cassley and Glen Oykel, a 1:25,000-scale map of a remote region of the Scottish Highlands. (Buy it at Amazon.) The area covered by the map is apparently spectacularly empty, at least as far as humans are concerned, with only “a few dozen houses,” most of which are used for vacation or hunting purposes. In a blog post today, the Ordnance Survey goes into more detail, listing the 10 least popular maps in the U.K.: they’re all in Scotland, so they also give the least popular maps for England and Wales.
If the purpose here is to point to the route less travelled, well and good, but I suspect the effect will be rather like what happens when a travel guide raves about an out-of-the-way, hidden gem of a restaurant.
Relying on your smartphone’s maps can be risky in places where cellular service is patchy. That goes for Gatineau Park, where, despite the fact that its southeast corner is surrounded by the city of Gatineau, Quebec (across the river from Ottawa), staff still recommend people use paper maps, CBC News reports. It’s a big park, after all, and not all of it is in the city. But it’s not just about dead zones and dead batteries: out of date trail information and lack of trail difficulty are also problems. None of these problems, mind you, are unfixable (except, you know, dead batteries).
The paper maps in question include general summer and winter maps, along with trail maps for summer and winter activities (all links to PDF files). They’re not total luddites: here’s an interactive map.
Created by designer Michael Raisch to coincide with the 2018 FIFA World Cup, The Illustrated Football Atlas combines vintage maps with drawings of the respective countries’ players. For more about this project, there’s an interview with Raisch at both The Guardian and These Football Times. [Mark Safran]
The official Pyeongchang 2018 website has maps of the various facilities for the Winter Games, though except for the Pyeongchang Olympic Plaza and Gangneung Olympic Park maps, there isn’t a lot of detail. Some of that is ameliorated by this Story Map of Olympic venues, which makes use of DigitalGlobe satellite imagery; the interface is a little less than obvious, but you can navigate around each facility. See also Explore Pyeongchang in Google Earth (Chrome required). [Maps Mania]
There’s an interesting story behind the name of Pyeongchang (평창군). It’s often spelled PyeongChang, which is odd because you don’t expect camel case in romanized Korean; and before 2000 it was spelled Pyongchang. Both changes have an explanation: as The New York Times explains, “it was often confused with Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. So in 2000, the town added a letter, capitalized another and changed its name to ‘PyeongChang,’ though most foreign news agencies declined to use the capital C.” [CityLab]
Speaking of toponyms. As I watch more Olympics coverage than is strictly good for me, I can’t help but notice the CBC’s sports commentators make frequent reference to the “East Sea”—the body of water that Gangneung, which hosts a number of ice venues, is on the coast of. It’s better known as the Sea of Japan, but as I’ve mentioned before, that name is disputed by Korea, where there’s a push to have it called the East Sea (동해), reflecting longstanding Korean practice. CBC’s use of the name is likely simply good manners.
Earlier this year Great Big Story did a short video piece about legendary ski resort map artist James Niehues, whom I’ve blogged about here on several previous occasions. Though this 2½-minute video is obviously less in-depth than, say, the Aspen Daily News’s profile of him from last year, I don’t mind another look at him and his work. [Atlas Obscura]
Suddenly I’ve got several links in the queue about paper maps and the use and making thereof:
BBC Autos looks at something that ought to be obsolete in the age of onboard navigation and mobile phones: the AAA’s TripTik. “And yet? July 2016 was the most popular TripTik month in AAA’s history, issuing 2 million TripTiks to members in a single month.” Go figure. [Osher]
I hadn’t know about Wunnenberg’s street guides, because I’m not from St. Louis, but I’ve seen other products of the sort: locally produced, hyper-detailed maps of a specific area. (Think the A-Z Maps and London, or Sherlock Maps and Winnipeg.) The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a look at Wunnenberg’s in the context of GPS, mobile phones and declining paper map sales. [WMS]