James Niehues: The Man Behind the Map

If you’ve ever skied or snowboarded in the US, Canada, or just about anywhere else with slopes in the world, you’ve used a ski map painted by James Niehues. Hell, I don’t ski or snowboard at all and I’ve probably seen hundreds of them around Colorado and I’ve always appreciated how cool they are and from time to time I’ve used them for climbing/mountaineering. Niehues has hand-painted almost 200 trail maps for places like Alta, Vail, Big Sky, Steamboat, Okemo, and Mammoth.

Ski Magazine regularly ranks the Top 50 resorts in North America. Jim has hand painted 45 of them. His tools of choice are a camera, a notepad, a paintbrush and a canvas. Every painstaking detail — peaks, cliffs, trees and shadows — is painted by hand. Jim’s large and beautiful paintings have helped generations of skiers navigate and capture the unique character of each mountain. He has had more impact on the image and feel of skiing than almost anyone, yet few people know his name.

Niehues is publishing a hardcover coffee table book featuring all of his work along with a series of prints. Here are a couple examples, keep scrolling for a great video on his process as well:

Jim was featured in 2017 by the Great Big Story:


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