Mad River Glen, VT: Paint It If You Can?

Taylor Stephan | | Industry NewsIndustry News
Single Chairlift
The iconic Single Chair at Mad River Glen, VT. Photo Credit: Mad River Glen

Mad River Glen is known for its slogan “ski it if you can.” However, one man known for his iconic trail maps within the ski industry is finally going to “paint it if he can.”

James Niehues, legendary trail map artist and creator of “The Man Behind the Maps,” is taking his talents to Eastern Vermont. He’s painted over 250 trail maps for 175 ski resorts across the world and is known for his intricate, hand-sketched, and painted trail maps.

James Niehues and Open Road Ski Company are partnering with Mad River Glen to crowdsource funding for a new project through Kickstarter. The project entails James Niehues hand painting the renowned terrain of Mad River Glen for trail maps, mountain signs, and more.

“Mad River Glen is a unique mountain with a storied history and a deep community connection that can’t be found anywhere else. Painting the mountain’s new trail map, and at the same time supporting their cooperative model and the Stark Mountain Foundation is a privilege”

– James Niehues

Just like the Kickstarter for his book “The Man Behind the Maps,” James Niehues and Mad River Glen are already exceeding expectations. Launched on September 3, 2020, the Kickstarter exceeded its goal of $7,500 by 1000% within the first 36 hours. As of September 11, 2020, the Kickstarter has raised over $84,000 from 240 backers with 20 days to go. All additional funds will be going to the Stark Mountain Foundation, a charitable organization with a mission to preserve and protect the environment and ecosystem of General Stark Mountain.

painting
James Niehues starting to hand-sketch Mad River Glen. Photo Credit: VermontBiz

Mad River Glen isn’t your typical ski area. Located in the Green Mountains of Vermont, the ski area was founded in 1947 and puts skiing and community first. It operates one of two single chairlifts in the U.S., is only one of three ski areas in the U.S that forbids snowboarding, and is the only cooperatively owned ski area in the U.S. The mountain boasts a 2,000-foot vertical drop and is known for letting nature do the talking, focusing on natural terrain features with minimal snowmaking and grooming.

For a trail map aficionado and ski industry junkie such as myself, I couldn’t imagine a better partnership. I can’t begin to estimate how many hours I’ve poured over James Niehues’s “Man Behind the Maps” book and trail maps. I’ve never even skied Mad River Glen, but I have a bumper sticker from forcing my parents to detour a long time ago on a summer road trip of the Northeast. I can’t wait to see the finished product, and I will definitely be supporting the Kickstarter myself.

James Niehues
James Niehues in his element. Photo Credit: VT Ski & Ride

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One thought on “Mad River Glen, VT: Paint It If You Can?

  1. James Niehues is definitely my hero and I have been studying his maps for ages.
    The central problem of mapping trails is to show everything at once. This problem occurs when you have a resort (like Alta) that has a front side and a backside that can’t both be seen at once except from way above the ground. It also occurs at Mad River Glen. Merriam Webster defines glen as “a secluded narrow valley.” The sketch by Niehues shown in this piece unfolds that narrow valley like a piece of silly putty.

    It will be useful to understanding the relationship of one side of the Glen to the others, but you will have to “Ski It If You Can” to understand the twisting contours of this very special place.

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