Rather like classic album covers, the creation of piste maps, especially back before the era of digital mapping, is a source of fascination and delight to many skiers and boarders.
Most famous of all the map designers and a living-legend in the industry is ski artist James Niehuesh, whose maps, over past three decades, have helped countless skiers and snowboarders navigate down the snow-covered slopes of resorts across North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia. His maps have been printed literally hundreds of millions of times.
Now a luxurious new coffee table book The Man Behind the Maps: Legendary Ski Artist James Niehues published by the Open Road Ski Company is available for the first time outside North America and in the UK. The culmination of his lifelong work and passion for the mountains, this art-quality book is a compilation of more than 200 individual resort trail maps, each hand-painted by Niehues.
With eight geographically themed chapters, this hardcover coffee table book is the first and definitive collection of the art created by Niehues during his 30-year career.
In a modern digital age, Niehues may very well be the last of the great mapmakers. Priced at £80.49, the nearly 300-page book showcases his exacting process in which he first captures aerial shots and then explores the mountain himself before pain-stakingly illustrating every run, chairlift, tree and cliff band by hand. There’s a reason why most trail maps in use today have a similar look and feel; James has painted over 200 of them during the course of his lifetime.
“I have always enjoyed the challenge of fitting an entire mountain on a single page. Mountains are wonderful puzzles, and I knew if I painted with the right amount of detail and care, they would last,” said Niehues. “A good design is relevant for a few years, maybe even a decade. But a well-made map is used for generations.”
With Big Sky Resort chosen to grace its cover and a foreword penned by pioneering big-mountain skier Chris Davenport, the visually-stunning compilation includes trail maps from iconic ski destinations around the world. The book is 29.21 cm (a foot) tall and opens to a spread of 60.96 cm (two feet) wide, the perfect size to showcase the biggest ski mountains in the world.
“Every detail was taken into consideration during the printing 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,” the publishers enthuse.
Last year the book received rave reviews in the US when it was first launched from ski/snowboard industry veterans and influential athletes as it triggers powerful memories of past ski trips and fun-filled family holidays – simply put, the book is a guaranteed conversation starter.
“Jim has played such a huge role in the development of our sport and there are so many, like me, who have been deeply influenced by Jim and his art,” said Chris Davenport, two-time World Champion professional skier. “His maps are important, even vital, for everyone whose heart and soul revolves around the sport of skiing.”
Stemming from the number one Art-Illustration Kickstarter campaign of all time, The Man Behind the Maps had over 10,000 pre-orders. With the official launch of the book, the collective vision of Niehues’ and his fans will soon be in the hands of skiers and snowboards all over the world.