Famed landscape artist James Niehues (jamesniehues.com) and the Open Road Ski Company, which published the Man Behind the Maps book, are releasing a collection of sketches depicting 10 iconic mountains across the United States. These black and white sketches are an important step in the creation of Niehues’s hand-painted maps that have become synonymous with skiing.
Included in the release are sketches of Breckenridge, Colorado; Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Park City, Utah; Stowe, Vermont; Telluride, Colorado; Vail, Colorado; Alta, Utah; Alta and Snowbird, Utah; Big Sky, Montana and Mt. Bachelor, Oregon.
“The sketch is the cornerstone to providing the best configuration of a resort’s slopes, and it’s where the composition for the final painted view comes to life” says Niehues. “ A ski map is first and foremost an accurate representation to guide the skier around the mountain — but it’s also how the trees, rocks, slopes and topography all converge into a beautiful scene.”
When creating a map, Niehues photographs the mountain from all sides and perspectives including many taken from an airplane for a bird’s eye view. These photographs then act as a baseline to visualize how the different shapes, angles and aspects all fit onto a single piece of paper.
As Niehues sketches, slopes are moved around, lifts and elements are manipulated, and angles are changed to find what best represents the terrain of the resort in a credible and visually accurate way. Once completed, the final sketch is a full-sized, comprehensive piece of art identical to how the finished product will be painted.
“We’ve always been amazed at the beauty and detail of the black and white sketches,” says Todd Bennet, co-founder of the Open Road Ski Company releasing the sketches. “It’s something we touch on in the Man Behind the Maps book, but they’re impressive enough to deserve their own prints. So that’s just what we’ve done.”
All ten sketches are available now in four different sizes on jamesniehues.com.
James Niehues has painted over 200 trail maps that are used by hundreds of millions of people to navigate ski resorts across the world. As everything goes digital, Niehues maintains his analog approach, hand painting every trail, tree and rock, with details so accurate the maps can be used to navigate unmarked and unnamed areas of the mountain. He was recently inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame and has defined the look of an entire sport, capturing the unique character and soul of mountains worldwide.