James Niehues Announces Retirement After 30-Years of Painting Trail Maps

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James Niehues
Credit: James Niehues

After thirty years of painting ski maps, James Niehues officially confirmed that he would be hanging up his paintbrushes and retiring yesterday.

It’s official, after 30+ years, I am stepping away from painting #trailmaps. With this news, I’m releasing a collection of originals for sale. Click here to learn more, sign up to be the 1st to know about future releases and for the opportunity to own one.

James Niehues

If you’ve ever been to a ski resort, chances are you’ve laid eyes on one of artist James Niehues’ paintings. Iconic, precise, and visually pleasing, Niehues has created over 350 views of mountain aspects for ski resorts since his first painted map in 1988. His paintings are featured all over the world.

Credit: James Niehues

James Niehues hand paints each painting with brush and airbrush watercolors. He takes pride in the detail and tries to convey a full view of a mountain in a single image- which often requires slight manipulation of the actual view in order to include the whole map. The result is effortless looking despite his careful and calculated approach to naturally blend different aspects of the mountain. When he meets people at ski resorts and tells them that he created trail maps, they are often surprised and state that they thought computer programs made the images. To this, he replies, “no, I paint every one of those trees!”

Alta and Snowbird, UT. Credit: J Niehues

“That’s what I do, that’s what I live for.”

Niehues’ contribution to the skiing and snowboarding community has won him a nomination to the  U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.

Niehues has compiled his works into a single book called The Man Behind the Maps, available for purchase on his website, which also features his blog. You can see a list of the resorts he has painted below. If you think you can recognize your favorite mountain’s resort map, try taking his quiz “Name That Niehues” on his website.

Credit J Niehues





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3 thoughts on “James Niehues Announces Retirement After 30-Years of Painting Trail Maps

  1. James came to a local brewery for a book signing a few years ago here in Salt Lake. I think he was truly astounded and touched that a bunch of 20/30 somethings were lined out the door to meet him. He was a very cool, engaging and humble guy. Happy retirement, James!

  2. received his book as a Christmas present, it resides on the coffee table at the cabin. everyone who looks at it loves it.

  3. I wish James well in retirement. His is a household name… among skiers and snowboarders, that is. When you open up the map on that breezy chairlift ride to figure out where you are, you see his name right there.

    His maps are exquisite, and, of course, useful and important as well as enjoyable to look at. How many times have I scanned the Niehues map in my hotel room to plan the next day’s activities? How many times have I scanned the Niehues map to figure out how to get down the mountain safely?

    James has made snow sports that much more enjoyable.

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