Colorado artist and icon James Niehues is, for the first time in 35 years, done painting ski maps.
As a farewell bid to snow, Niehues will auction original maps of Snowmass and Telluride, donating all proceeds to the Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of Fame.
Since the early 1980s, Niehues has been hard at work creating something that few ever have — functional fine art. In that time, the Colorado-based painter has produced upwards of 200 true-to-life ski maps. It’s time, Niehues says, to focus on other projects (of which he has plenty).
As a final contribution to U.S. snowsports, Niehues will put on a retrospective show and fundraiser for the Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of Fame. The event is equal parts exhibition and auction, and it launches on Oct. 19.
Niehues Maps Up for Auction
The fundraising auction centers on two of Niehues’ most prized original paintings, Snowmass and Telluride. In conjunction with the originals, Niehues will release a single nonfungible token of the two paintings.
Finally, a single pair of Niehues x Wagner Custom Skis will round out the biddable collection. Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of Fame will receive 100% of the auction proceeds.
According to Niehues’ announcement from Oct. 3, additional details concerning the auction will become available closer to Oct. 19. Interested parties can sign up to receive timely notifications.
Niehues Ski Map Exhibition
The other component of Niehues’s farewell event, of course, is the exhibition. In addition to Snowmass and Telluride, the Snowsports Museum will display the mapmaker’s original sketches and paintings of eight American ski resorts.
Spectators can expect to see Niehues’ Brighton, Mount Hood Ski Bowl, Northstar, Killington Pico, Okemo, and Heavenly ski trail maps.
“I have always enjoyed the challenge of fitting an entire mountain on a single page,” said Niehues, who clearly has a way of blending form with function.
If in the last three decades you’ve visited a stateside ski resort, consulted a snow tourism pamphlet, or flipped through Snow Country Magazine, odds are you’ve seen — and maybe even relied on — a Niehues ski map.
Some are monochromatic sketches, most are lush watercolors, and they all carry the now-distinctive Niehues style. The originals are large, the fidelity of the details is high, and the navigational information is accurate.
“Mountains are wonderful puzzles, and I knew if I painted with the right amount of detail, they would last,” Niehues said.
“As I retire from painting ski maps, I am thrilled to know hundreds of my maps are still used by skiers and snowboarders, including my earliest work from the 1980s.”