James Niehues is an American landscape artist and cartographer best known for painting ski trail maps for ski resorts. He has painted 255 maps for 175 ski resorts around the world.
Niehues’ method of painting ski trails begins with aerial photographs of the mountain that he either takes himself or obtains from Google Earth. He then sketches the mountain based on the photographs and adds color and detail with watercolor paints and an airbrush.
One of the most prolific ski-trail mapmakers at work, Niehues is known for extreme attention to detail, giving unique form, structure and shadows to trees, or adding cars to resort parking lots. He usually begins by gathering images of his subject from various angles, including archival photos and flying around the area at various elevations. A medium-size ski resort takes two to four days to sketch and seven to 10 days to paint. Larger regions have taken weeks. • All images: Gestalten