Niehues Moves On from Ski Resort Maps

James Niehues
James Niehues (2018)

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.

Previous posts about James Niehues.

Atlas Obscura Interviews James Niehues

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.

[via]

Book of Niehues Ski Resort Art Now Available

The Man Behind the Map, the coffee table book of Jim Niehues’s ski resort maps whose crowdfunding campaign I told you about last year, is now available for sale.

The Man Behind the Maps (cover)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.

Crowdfunding a Book of James Niehues’s Ski Resort Art

James Niehues, “Big Sky Resort,” 2013.

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]

Previously: A Video Profile of James Niehues, Ski Resort Map Artist; James Niehues Passes the Torch; James Niehues’s Ski Resort Maps; James Niehues Profile.

Cartographers in the Field

Hal Shelton, “Cartographers in the Field,” 1940. Oil painting, 4 × 6 feet. USGS Library, Menlo Park, California. Photo by Terry Carr, USGS. Public domain.

Cartographers in the Field: “This Depression-era oil painting was created by USGS field man Hal Shelton in 1940. The painting depicts mapping techniques used in the early days of cartography, including an alidade and stadia rod for determining distances and elevations and a plane-table for sketching contour lines. A USGS benchmark is visible near the top. The straight white lines represent survey transects. Note the ‘US’ marking on the canteen: many of the USGS field supplies were obtained from Army surplus.” [Osher Map Library]

James Niehues Passes the Torch

niehues-sugarloaf
James Niehues, Sugarloaf, Maine, 2000.

The Aspen Daily News has a profile of map artist James Niehues, who’s painted hundreds of different aerial views of ski resorts and recreational areas since the late 1980s. (If you’ve seen a poster of your local ski resort, odds are Niehues was the one who painted it. He sells prints of them, too.)  The article names Niehues as heir to an artistic tradition of alpine cartographic art whose practitioners included Hal Shelton and Bill Brown.

Without knowing it, Niehues had become heir to an American artistic dynasty. Shelton was trained as [a] U.S. Geological Survey cartographer and produced a large number of famous trail maps in the 1960s and 1970s. In the ’70s, Shelton passed the torch to Brown, and by 1988, Brown was ready to pass the torch off to someone else.

In the early 2000s, though, it seemed that the storied line of American mountain illustrators would end with Niehues. His maps, many of which had faithfully represented ski trails for decades, began to be replaced by digitally rendered pieces whose production values placed speed above quality.

But there’s a twist: one of the digital illustrators, Rad Smith, ended looking to Niehues for inspiration and mentorship. Demand for painted maps turns out to be more resilient; Niehues, who I believe is in his late sixties and has described himself as semi-retired, may have someone to pass the torch to after all. It’s a fascinating read. [via]

Previously: James Niehues’s Ski Resort Maps; James Niehues Profile.