If you’ve skied one mountain, or traveled the world on skis or snowboard, you’ve probably used James Niehues’ resort maps.
Niehues has been painting aerial views since the mid-1980s. He created his first ski resort map in 1988. “Each view is hand-painted by brush and airbrush using opaque watercolor to capture the detail and variations of nature’s beauty,” he explains. “In many instances, distortions are necessary to bring everything into a single view. The trick is to do this without the viewer realizing that anything has been altered from the actual perspective.”
To make a resort map, Niehues shoots the mountain from every possible perspective, including aerial. The resulting photographs are a baseline for the artist to conceive and visualize how the numerous angles and aspects all fit into a single frame. It is undoubtedly painstaking work.
“A ski map is first and foremost an accurate representation to guide the skier around the mountain,” says Niehues, “but it’s also how the trees, rocks, slopes and topography all converge into a beautiful scene.”
Recently Niehues announced the release of original paintings and sketches across his 35 year history in the ski industry, as he steps away from creating ski resort trail maps to focus on other projects.
On October 19, 2021, Niehues will release his first set of 10 originals showcasing the breadth of his work spanning resorts across the United States including select original paintings and sketches of Brighton, Mount Hood Ski Bowl, Northstar, Killington Pico, Okemo and Heavenly.
Two of the original works being released—Snowmass and Telluride—are among the most rare items in Niehues’ collection as they feature his early work with Snow Country Magazine from more than 25 years ago. They will be auctioned with 100% of the proceeds going to support the Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of Fame.