By Snow and Local Insider \ December 28 2018
If you ski or snowboard you’ve doubtlessly unfurled, memorized, scrutinized, and admired one of James Niehues’ hand-painted masterpieces. Niehues, or Jim, has been the most prolific painter of ski area trail maps going on thirty years now, building on the legacies of artists Hal Shelton and Bill Brown. His watercolor depictions of ski resorts encompass countless mountains across the globe, showcasing every aspect of each ski area for its guests.
Jim first began tinkering with the idea of gathering his prints in a coffee table book around twenty years ago. His pipe dream finally gained momentum when a few avid skiers approached him this summer with a plan. On November 14, 2018, Jim and his small production team launched a Kickstarter Page: James Niehues: The Man Behind the Map. Their goal was to raise $8,000 by January 3, 2019 to help cover production costs.
I’m just a farm boy from Colorado, I don’t even have any formal art training.
Jim’s response to the incredible swell of enthusiasm is simply humble awe, “I don’t have proper words for it. It’s extremely gratifying to know that there are people out there that appreciate my work enough to put money up front to support the book. Mind boggling. I’m very humbled by this. I’m just a farm boy from Colorado, I don’t even have any formal art training. I learned everything on the job.”
The intensity of the demand to become a patron of Jim’s work likely stems from the fact that skiers and snowboarders have never had to pay for it. A trail map is a free, portable, foldable, lightweight, and dynamic piece of art that fits in your pocket. Thousands of people have the pleasure of viewing and using Jim’s artwork every day.
Photo by: Lindsay Pierce Martin
Jim employs meticulous care when crafting his work, "It’s very important to depict the mountain at a point when shadows are cast across the slopes,” he affirms. It is as though Jim has captured the ideal day you'd want to find yourself visiting each mountain. Stripped of their map legends, logos, trail names, and text, Jim’s paintings have an ethereal quality to them. It’s not difficult to imagine yourself descending the flanks of any one of these mountains, breathless and full of joy.
James Niehues: The Man Behind the Map will provide ample inspiration for future ski or shred trips and ignite fond memories of treasured days in the past. The project is in good hands, as the members of the Kickstarter production team are all avid skiers and big fans of Jim's work. Says Jim in his humble way, “They have their heart in this project. It’ll be neat.”
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