Great ski Xmas presents #1 The Man Behind the Maps

The Man Behind The Maps is a fantastic book showcasing the amazing work of “Mr Trail Maps”, legendary Ski Artist James Niehues. Almost everybody who skis downunder would know his work, even if they don’t realise it.

The Man Behind the Maps is the ideal Xmas gift, more so while we can’t travel to the places in it this year! © Open Road Ski Company

Niehues’ hand painted trail maps are what we rely on at Perisher, Hotham, Buller, Falls Creek, Thredbo, Treble Cone, Cardrona, Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Whakapapa, Portillo and Valle Nevado.

Working from aerial photography, preferably his own, he perfected a process many have imitated but none have bettered.

Of course with GPS, digital gadgets and devices that tell you what to do and where to go, some resorts have thought they could replace their James Niehues original hand painted map with technology. Guess what? People prefer art over tech.

Nothing gives you an at-a-glance idea of how somewhere will ski than one on Niehues unique maps, originally drawn by the artist on a large canvas made up from a series of preliminary sketches.

Big Sky in Montana is one classic example in America. The book cover is the sketch, above, and already on sight we bet you want to go there!

Apart from producing Snow Action issues our bread-and-butter income for many years used to come from resort and tour operator marketing and promotions, with their annual ‘Ski North America’ brochures a big part of that. Laying up page after page of resorts they would become a blur. But the Niehues map would always make them pop, and tells you more about a resort at a glance than a 1,000 word spiel.

Who doesn’t want to ski Big Sky, Lone Peak looks so tasty and skis like you see it here! © Open Road Ski Company

Take a look at reality vs James Niehues for the most spectacular resorts in Australia, New Zealand and Chile..

Australia, New Zealand and Chile joined North America as big James Niehues fans, and a generation of skiers and boarders have benefited from the likes of these great maps.

James Niehues Hotham trail map original painting
Hotham by and © James Niehues
Hotham on a pow day © Vail Resorts
Treble Cone Trail Map original artwrok by James Niehues
Treble Cone © James Niehues
TC after a massive early dump in 2013 © Nick Noble / Treble Cone
Portillo Trail Map original by James Niehues
Chile’s classic Portillo © James Niehues
Going the slash high above Portillo © Owain Price

We got in touch with James back in the early 2000s and begged Cerro Catedral in Argentina to get him to do theirs .. they refused, so their 1130m vertical still looks smaller than Falls Creek’s 340m. It was the best marketing spend a resort could do.

No one gets the detail and feel for terrain like Niehues does.

The Man Behind The Maps is a must have skier’s Xmas present

Which brings us to approaching Xmas. The visually stunning, near 300-page coffee table book showcasing over 200 iconic ski resort trail maps hand-painted by artist James Niehues, has already hit the charts with fans.

It’s a no brainer for ski lodges and resort accommodation, and just a great gift for any skier or rider, maybe even more so in these COVID-19 times.

For Aussies, who are still not allowed to freely leave their own country – “ski holiday” is not apparently a valid reason for leaving – so drooling over the maps here will get you dreaming of the next adventure when we can travel again.

Over 10,000 copies have been pre-purchased by fans of his work. Outdoor enthusiasts and avid skiers will revel in the behind-the-scenes look and global scope of the book as it brings the most storied mountains in the world to life in full page, art-print quality illustrations.

International section index

The book details Niehues’ incredible journey, his artistic process and a lifetime of illustrations.

Niehues’ story is unparalleled – he paints maps used by hundreds of millions of people, and in the process, his work has defined the look of ski areas everywhere. His details are so accurate that people use his maps to navigate unmarked and unnamed areas of the mountain. Even as a few ski areas went digital, Niehues continues to paint and define the visual standard of the mountain experience. He was nominated to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame this year.

The book itself makes an immediate impression as its slightly oversized dimensions (12” x 11.5” x 1.25”) make it easy to become enveloped in its illustrations. Every detail was taken into consideration during the production process: Italian art-quality printing, heavier weight matte coated paper, lay-flat binding and a beautifully debossed title on both the cover and spine. Logging in at 292 pages, the book showcases a pencil sketch of Big Sky, MT on the cover with matte anti-scratch protection and each book is individually shrink-wrapped and shipped in a custom box.

The Last of His Breed: keep those print maps crew!

Our advice is to keep all your print trail maps. The more digital the World goes, the more Niehues’ artists approach to map making has remained the same. Millions of skiers have relied on his trail maps, which capture the unique character and soul of the mountain they illustrate.

“I’m truly honored and humbled to see my life’s work collected in such a beautiful, intimate book,” said Niehues. “When I first began painting trail maps more than 30 years ago, I had no idea that I could make such an impression on an entire industry. This whole thing, my recent nomination to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame and realization of this new book, it’s just hard to put my gratitude into words.”

Sorry James, you have that the wrong way round; we all owe you a huge debt of gratitude for your amazing efforts. As the saying goes, “Love your work!” .. please NEVER retire !

Order your copy of The Man Behind the Maps on the link here. – it’s $USD 90 or $USD 150 for a signed copy. Cheaper than a lift pass most places in it .. Plus shipping, be quick so it arrives for Xmas!

UPDATE: it’s now available shipped from Australia direct – cost is USD $99 including GST plus around $USD 25 for delivery depending on your location (they go out from Sydney) go to the link here for that