In The News

Meet the man behind most of the ski maps in America

By ParkCityIs.com
Jan 09, 2019

The ski trail map at your local mountain was probably painted by James Niehues. Now you can see his life's work in one beautiful book.

There’s good chance that any time you slide off the top of a chairlift, you’ll be faced with James Niehues’s work. The 72-year-old Coloradan has hand-painted the maps used by more than 200 ski resorts. But skiing’s most prolific artist says he stumbled into it by luck. In 1987, Niehues had just moved to Denver from Grand Junction, Colorado. He had a couple of kids, and he was looking for work as a graphic designer after his work at an auto-parts manufacturer dried up. He reached out to local artist Bill Brown, who gave him a one-off job working on the trail map for Winter Park’s Mary Jane Mountain. Brown, who was the only resort-map artist at the time, was looking to retire, and he passed the ski-map mantle on to Niehues.

Aside from ideal timing, Niehues says he thinks he has an innate ability to see a whole mountain in one shot. We’d have to agree—his maps are incredibly accurate, down to the parking lots, but with a nostalgic wash of pastel color that’s instantly recognizable.

Thanks to a Kickstarter campaign that runs until January 3 (and has far exceeded its goal), he plans to release a book this summer showcasing three decades’ worth of work. Niehues told us about his book project, the mountains he’s always wanted to draw, why you can’t beat a hand-painted trail map, and how technology has changed his job for the better.

On His Process: “I always fly over the mountain and photograph it. Today I can go in deep on Google, but aerial photography gives me an idea of what it looks like that I can quote from. Then the first step is to go into a small pencil sketch. If it’s a complicated mountain, and I see different ways to illustrate it, I’ll send different thumbnails to clients. Then I’ll go into a comprehensive sketch that will be as big as the map. Once it’s approved, I’ll project the image onto my painting surface, trace every detail, and then airbrush. I start with the sky and work from the top down filling in details.”

On the Details: “It’s a puzzle to put together. I struggled early on getting the back sides of mountains right. I’m constantly trying to get all the flow lines correct and running down the page. Resorts know what they want and need, but sometimes they want to show their mountain bigger than it is. My job is to bring it back to reality. My favorite mountains are the ones where I can paint cliffs or rugged peaks and the mountains beyond. But I really like to do the mountains in New Zealand, because there are no trees there.”

On Skiing: “I learned in ski in Europe when I was in the Army. A couple of us guys took leave and went to down to Switzerland. Mine was the fastest time down, so I thought I was pretty good. When I tried to ski again at Powderhorn, outside Grand Junction, after I came back in 1969, I walked off the mountain because I couldn’t turn. On the job, I became an intermediate skier. It’s important, because I understand what other skiers go through in navigating the mountain.”

On the History of Ski Maps: “There are artists that have drawn a few maps, but there are really only two others who have done what I do. In the 1970s, Hal Shelton pioneered it here in the States. He was the first to paint trail maps, and he did it with an airbrush, because you can create subtle surfaces and lots of backlight. Bill Brown did it in the eighties, and then I took over for him. In the late nineties, everyone was looking at new technology because they thought computers could do a better job of mapping, but a lot of them have come back to my style. Now with the internet, it’s so important to have a good image. You’ve got a mountain that’s beautiful and challenging, and you’ve got to show that, and the computer images just aren’t as beautiful. This is one thing that is better done the way it was done 50 years ago.”

On Anthologizing: “Way back in the mid-nineties I started thinking that maybe I’d have enough illustrations for a book, so I started working book rights into my contract. Didn’t pursue it heavily, but then I started realizing, I’m 72 now, so it’s time to get it going.”

On Retirement: “I’ve tried to retire, but then someone will call me and I’ve always wanted to do their mountain, so I end up jumping back in. I’m doing a sketch of Mount Bachelor right now; they have 180 degrees of skiing, and I’ve always wanted to do that. An artist named Rad Smith, who is in Bozeman, Montana, is working as a protégé. He used to make maps with computers but realized he couldn’t do it as well, so he went back to painting. There don’t seem to be any others who are jumping into it. It’s a small market. It was a small market for me.”

On Art: “I think of the paintings as art instead of trail maps. In the early days, it was really about the map, but the values have shifted. Hal and Bill realized it was important to get the beauty and to give people something they could look at and dream about. I think a computer-generated map is a reflection of the office—it’s rigid. A hand-painted map reflects the outdoors. You ski to get into that environment.”

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In the News

There's Only One Park City.

In true Park City fashion, the entire town seemed in attendance at Legacy Lodge for Vail Resort's announcement of One Park City, its new brand and resort launch. After the intro video, Vail's Chief Operating Officer and Chief Marketing Officer spoke about the new brand and Vail's progress-to-date on its $50 Million improvement plan.

Our biggest takeaway: the largest resort in America is now operating right here in Park City. After $50 million in capital improvements, which will be completed in time for opening this winter, mountain visitors will have access to 7,300 acres of ski terrain, 17 peaks, and a resort that extends 6.5 miles in length.

The new Quicksilver gondola is proceeding on schedule and will be operational for the 2015-2016 season. Vail Resorts settled on the name "Quicksilver" because it denotes Park City's mining history and the speed of the 8-person, state-of-the-art conveyance, which transports riders from the base of Silverlode to the Flatiron Lift via Pinecone Ridge in just 8 minutes.

The restaurant formerly known as Snow Hut, has been re-named Miners Camp and will seat 500. Additional improvements and expansions will be made to Red Pine Lodge (capacity will be expanded by 250 seats), Summit House, and Legacy Lodge. Snow making has also been added to Iron Mountain and near the gondola.

The new consolidated resort will operate under the name, Park City. The logo was re-purposed from Canyons Resort and has the tagline, "There is only one. Park City."

 

In the News

 

Vail Releases Details of Improvement Plan

Today, Vail Resorts shared their action and improvement plan with regards to Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons Resort. The plan includes more than $50 million in improvements that will take place in just one season, making it the most ambitious ski resort improvement strategy to date. The changes will create the largest ski resort in America by combining Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons Resort. Here are some specific improvements listed in Vail's comprehensive press release:

The Interconnect Gondola. An eight-passenger, high-speed two-way gondola from the base of the existing Silverlode Lift at Park City to the Flatiron Lift at Canyons. The gondola will also have an unload at the top of Pine Cone Ridge to allow skiers and riders the opportunity to ski into Thaynes Canyons at Park City via gated ski access or to the Iron Mountain area at Canyons through new trails that will be created from Pine Cone Ridge. 

Upgrade of King Con and Motherlode Lifts at Park City. The King Con  Lift will be upgraded from a four-person to a six-person, high-speed detachable chairlift. The Motherlode Lift will be upgraded from a fixed-grip triple to a four-person, high-speed detachable chairlift. 

New Snow Hut Restaurant, Upgrades to Summit House Restaurant at Park City and Expansion of Red Pine Lodge Restaurant at Canyons. The plan calls for building a completely new Snow Hut restaurant at the base of the Silverlode Lift and next to the Park City terminal for the Interconnect Gondola, with 500 indoor seats and a top-of-the-line kitchen and culinary experience. The plan also includes an upgrade to the "scramble" area inside the Summit House restaurant to improve the flow of diners and increase seats. At Canyons, the Red Pine Restaurant will be renovated to accommodate an additional 250 indoor seats. 

Snowmaking and Other Improvements. The plan features additional snowmaking on two trails in the Iron Mountain area of Canyons which will become increasingly central ski terrain given its proximity to the Interconnect Gondola. The plan also includes almost $5 million of "catch up" maintenance and upgrades at Park City, given the lack of spending at the resort over the past few years. 

"This comprehensive capital plan for Park City and Canyons is one of the most ambitious and impactful plans undertaken at any resort in industry history, transforming the experience at both resorts and creating the largest single ski resort in the U.S. with more than 7,300 acres of skiable terrain," said Blaise Carrig, president of the mountain division for Vail Resorts. He added, "The improvements offer skiers and riders more terrain and upgraded lifts to enhance the guest experience and reduce crowding and lift lines, new and upgraded restaurants, more snowmaking and an overall ‘touching up’ of all aspects of the resorts. The plan was based on feedback from guests and the local community as well as discussions with the senior operating teams at the two resorts. We look forward to continuing to work with the county and the city and are hopeful we can bring this plan to life for the 2015-2016 ski season."

 

In the News

In the News

Deer Valley Purchases Solitude

DEER VALLEY RESORT, PARK CITY, UTAH (October 3, 2014) – Deer Valley Resort has entered into an agreement to purchase Solitude Mountain Resort and will begin operating the resort on May 1, 2015.

“Solitude is an incredible resort and provided a huge opportunity for us to expand our offerings right here in Utah,” said Bob Wheaton, president and general manager of Deer Valley Resort. “Solitude is in unique position with their widely varied terrain that attracts both local and destination skiers. We are ecstatic to be able to add the resort to the Deer Valley® family.”

“The DeSeelhorst family has enjoyed being a part of Solitude’s history for almost 40 years. We are proud of what we have been able to accomplish at the resort and in our mountain community,” said Dave DeSeelhorst, owner and general manager of Solitude Mountain Resort. “We feel very fortunate for the opportunity to have worked with so many amazing people in our industry and most importantly being able to work with our incredible staff at Solitude over the years. It is exciting to pass on this unique and beautiful resort to one of the best resort operators in the country, Deer Valley.”

For the upcoming 2014-15 ski season, Solitude will operate as usual under the leadership of the DeSeelhorst family. To foster the most effective and strategic change over, select Deer Valley staff will work alongside Solitude staff during the next six months to evaluate resort operations and gain knowledge about the Solitude brand and culture. Deer Valley will then take full ownership of Solitude Mountain Resort on May 1, 2015.

 

In the News

 

Park City Mountain Resort Sells to Vail for $180. Million

September/ 2014

Powdr Corp. has sold its Park City Mountain Reosrt to Vail Reosrts, ending a tumultuous year for Utah’s most popular ski destination.

"Selling was the last thing we wanted to do, and while we believe the law around this issue should be changed, a protracted legal battle is not in line with our core value to be good stewards of the resort communities in which we operate," Powdr CEO John Cumming said in a statement. "A sale was the only way to provide long-term certainty for PCMR employees and the Park City community. My family and I are extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to play a role in making PCMR what it is today, and we deeply appreciate the dedicated employees and all of the people who have supported us over the years."

The deal requires Vail Resorts to retain Park City Mountain Resort employees.

Powdr owned the Utah resort for more than 20 years, growing it into one of the most popular ski areas in North America.

According to Vail's Press Releases, with the acquisition, all aspects of the previously disclosed litigation with respect to PCMR have been settled and this dispute will no longer pose any future threat to disrupt the operation of the resort.

"First and foremost, we are very pleased to bring a permanent end to this dispute and provide assurance to the guests and employees of PCMR, and to everyone in the Park City community, that they no longer have to worry about any disruption to the operation of the Resort. This has been a difficult period for everyone involved and I commend John Cumming and Powdr Corp. for helping to find a solution to this situation," said Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts.

"Park City Mountain Resort is one of the most spectacular mountain resorts and iconic brands in the ski industry and I am proud to have the resort become a part of Vail Resorts. The acquisition will allow us to immediately bring Park City Mountain Resort onto the Epic Pass, which will now offer skiers from across the country and around the world access to 22 resorts. We look forward to working collaboratively with the entire Park City community, as well as city and county officials, as we chart the future for the resort, including how we can best bring the Canyons and Park City ski experiences together to create the largest mountain resort in the United States," he added.  

Mountain operations of PCMR and Canyons will remain separate for the 2014-2015 ski season. However, the Epic Pass and Epic Local Pass will be valid at PCMR. All PCMR passes for the 2014-2015 ski season will continue to be honored and can be exchanged or upgraded for a season pass that will also be valid at Canyons. The majority of all lift tickets sold at either resort will be valid at both PCMR and Canyons.

 

Canyons in the News

Patrick Meek:
Ultimate Weekender, 
HHonors Team Member and Sponsored U.S. Olympic Athlete

Speed skater Patrick Meek, is not only an U.S. Olympic hopeful but a team member at the Waldorf Astoria Park City. He hasn't taken much time off the ice recently in his preparations for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games and the Waldorf Astoria Park City has worked around Patrick's speed skating schedule to help make his Olympic dreams come true.

 

Canyons Golf Course making headway

 Completion expected by September 2014
 Aaron Osowski, The Park Record

  

 

 

 

It has been a much-delayed project through a development process that occurred over a decade ago, but at long last completion of the Canyons Resort Golf Course is expected in less than a year's time.

The 6,256-yard, par-70 course designed by Gene Bates and the Bates Golf Design Group will feature over 1,000 feet of elevation change. According to Guicho Pons, Officer with TCFC Finance Co., the course is expected to be completed by Sept. 30, 2014.

"[The course] was part of the original SPA (Specially Planned Area) agreement in 1999 and for whatever reason it was never done," Pons said. "We started construction in June and made really good progress over the last five months."

MVC Construction and Landscapes Unlimited have been contracted in the construction of the course and Pons said that "substantial progress" has been made on 14 holes with rough grading complete on the remaining four holes. Several holes are "virtually completed," he added, except for tees and greens, as the window for seeding closed.

TCFC Finance Spokesperson Todd Burnette said that, since they had to work with predetermined terrain in designing the course, there were challenges involved in construction.

"The challenges in building the course will end up being interesting features for players," Burnette said. "Elevation changes and elevated tees will provide incredible views from the Uinta Mountains to Old Town and all three ski areas."

Pons said they are almost finished with the irrigation systems on 14 holes. There are no irrigation systems on the rough graded holes and the course will utilize what they call a "fertigation" system which allows fertilizer to be applied directly through the irrigation system.

The irrigation system will also feature a computer system that can accommodate different "micro-climates" for the various holes. Pons said that, for instance, the holes on Willow Drop have a different micro-climate than holes near State Road 224.

Burnette calls the course "very unique" and said it has the ability to be a strong driver of out-of-state tourism during the summer, especially for corporate groups.

"There really hasn't been a golf course set up [in the area] to take advantage of large corporate groups," Burnette said.

Dave Dubois, a resident of Sun Peak and president of the Sun Peak Homeowners Association, said he and other residents near Canyons Resort are excited about the completion of the course's construction.

"We're all looking forward to having it completed. The holes look great and the paths seem first-rate," Dubois said.

Dubois did note that those residents near some of the construction have complained of dust being blown by their houses on windy days, so the establishment of green grass will be welcomed by many.

Pons said the course, which has an expected total cost of $25 million, has not received many complaints. The only notable complaints have been related to the rock cuts that have taken place on the hill near the Miners Club and Fairway Springs.

"We tried to minimize the environmental impact of the course. People complain about the rock cuts but don't realize that all of that material that came out was used in the golf course," Pons said.

Crews also employed a rock crushing machine that crushed material to be used as topsoil for holes farther down the hill, Pons said, which minimized the hauling of enormous amounts of material up and down the hill.

"The main thing to note is that we've listened to all of the residents' concerns and addressed [them]," Burnette said. "The vast majority of property owners are looking at this as a very positive thing."

For photos and information about the Canyons Golf Course, visit canyonsresortgolfcourse.com.