Required Reading

This New Coffee Table Book Is the Best Homage to Ski Culture


September 5, 2019 Sports and Outdoors By

Ski-themed art is tacky. There, we said it, and we stand by it. Unless you can find authentic maps and posters from past decades, decorating your condo with faux-vintage reproductions will turn it into a weak facsimile of its actual mountain setting. If that’s what you want to celebrate, do it with a beautiful new book, James Niehues: The Man Behind the Map. The Kickstarter-launched project already has more than 10,000 pre-orders, and it’s easy to see why.

If you’ve never questioned why nearly every trail map for resorts around the world is illustrated in a similar style, you might not know it’s because one man painted most of them, by hand. But if you look closely, you’ll find the signature of the Colorado-based artist, typically camouflaged off to the side in a cluster of trees. To make a map, Niehues starts with a calculated series of aerial photographs from different elevations, before moving on to a rough sketch and then a final painting.

Niehues has completed nearly 200 maps of iconic resorts such as Jackson Hole, Whistler Blackcomb, Big Sky, Vail and Portillo since he started his niche career in 1987, and for the first time, they’re available together in one place. What’s more, they’re depicted in their original form, without computer-generated overlays of trail names and lodge locations. It’s a gorgeous homage to a fundamental yet overlooked piece of ski culture that’s suitable for any coffee table — whether it’s at a ski chalet, metropolitan apartment or college dorm.

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