Utah ski resorts have artist James Nihues to thank for their trail maps


If you’ve ever been skiing or snowboarding, you’ve probably seen the art of James Nihues.

Maybe it has helped your family safely navigate down the mountain. Like many young skiers you have taken it as a souvenir by thumb-tacking the wall of your bedroom. You may have purchased his book, “The Man Behind the Maps”, released in 2020, which looks like a ski resort in every American to showcase the artist’s illustrious, 35-year career.

Or, maybe you threw his art in the trash. Don’t worry if you do. The 75-year-old Colorado native doesn’t care when he sees his painting a trail map of corrugated paper in a trash can. He loves that his art has utility.

“That means it’s been used, and there can’t be a better compliment,” Nihues said.

In October, Nihuez retired from drawing trail maps. His career spans over 200 ski resorts and countless landscapes across four continents – His last job was rejected for a ski area in New Zealand.

But an artist never really retires, and Nihues is no exception. His next effort, the Great American Landscape Project, will cover a wide range of landscape paintings and sketches. Same style, low ski resorts.

In November, artists released the first of four sets of original paintings and drawings from Utah – all available, including Alta, Sundance and Utah Olympic Park. His website. In the coming weeks, they will release paintings and drawings from Beaver Mountain, Brighton, Deer Valley, Eagle Point, Park City, Solitude, Snowbasin and Snowbird. Nieuhce said the proceeds from the painting, which depicts both Park City and the Cottonwood Valley, will be donated to the National Capacity Center.

His paintings go for thousands of dollars. Bids for their original work are usually less than $ 5,000 On ebay, And earlier this year, Niehuis sold 10 original maps, a collection of custom skis featuring his art and pigeons in the world of non-fungible tokens, for more than $ 70,000 for the Colorado Snowsports Museum.

Just a few years ago, if you asked if Neuhaus could auction his paintings for so much, they probably wouldn’t believe you.

“I have known for a while that there are a lot of people who follow me, because I have a small (web) site, you know, and I get feedback from it.

In 2017, Todd Bennett, who co-founded the Open Road Ski Company, asked Nihues whether he had compiled his art into a book – and if he wasn’t, he volunteered to help publish one.

So they took Kickstarter to the Crowdsource Publishing Funds. A day later they raised about $ 1,000, close to their $ 8,000 goal. When the campaign was over, they raised about $ 600,000. It’s still huge Kickstarter campaign for art illustration.

“It just blew me away,” Nihues said.

Born in Fruta, Colorado, Nihues does not say that his ski career was anything but special. He first hit the slopes at Powder Horn in southwestern Colorado. “I had a really hard time getting off that slope, and in fact I took off my skis,” he said, laughing from his home in Parker, Colorado.

In 1987, Nihues found the “best I can find” guide in Bill Brown, who is similar to Nihues today, known as the go-to for ski resort trail maps. Nihues’s first work was a collaboration with Brown, commissioned by Winter Park, in which he was responsible for the recently expanded Mary Jane area. Nihues forgot to sign his painting and thought Winter Park was Brown’s job.

It was high praise. Brown passed the torch to the 41-year-old Nihues after seeing the talent he had.

Starting from Boreal Mountain, California, Nihues went on to paint what every ski resort in North America looks like. They connect the resorts with a rough description and a letter of recommendation from Brown. Later, armed with a 35mm camera, Niehuis arranged a flyover.

“I first get to the top of the mountain and get some panoramic views and different views as we move across its face. , Gets pretty tight, ”he said.

Tait is a word for it. Considering the top of Little Cottonwood Valley, which is only 2,000 feet wide at that height, some may have a different, inappropriate way to describe it.

Nihues gets off the plane with about 100 photos in his reel. Perhaps what has cemented his legendary status is his ability to “show the multiple sides of a mountain on a flat sheet of paper” with different angles and slopes.

“Whenever I get in front of a skier, I manipulate several different points of view to make it clear. In relativity, where he is on the mountain and how far he should ski and how he connects. And I think that’s the importance of the trail map, ”he said.

Some resorts are more difficult than others, especially Utah’s Deer Valley and Vail-owned Park City Mountain Resort, which absorbed Canyons Resort in 2015 and was the largest in the country at the time.

“There’s so much to that mountain, and the only way I can really do it is what I call satellite images – looking at the horizon.”

Nihues snubs a few times in his career. He never painted Aspen-Snowmass in Colorado. And after being commissioned by Vail early in his career, the resort moved to a computer-generated image – a technique he calls “how monotonous, so inventive” it is. He was going to paint every Vail owned resort, but not a corporate name.

Moving away in October was not easy, Nihues said. And as resorts continue to grow, adding lifts, cutting new trails and absorbing each other, the artist leaves big shoes to fill. But he says the industry is in good hands Bozman-based artist Rod Smith, Has been kicking him since he retired.

For all skiers and snowboarders who have benefited from his art, young and old – whether it be hurried out of the jacket pocket in the last attempt to avoid the path of the expert, or to bring it home after a ski vacation – hang on the wall of the bedroom:

“Thank you for having my trail map in your pocket. I appreciate it. ”

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