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The Man Behind the Maps Is the Must-Have Art Book for Anyone Who Loves to Ski

Spy Finds is a daily series that unveils the coolest, under-the-radar products that you haven’t heard of until now. Each product is curated by our editors who want to help you discover cool finds you didn’t know you needed.

If you know skiing, you probably know James Niehues. We know that his name might not immediately ring a bell, but his iconic aerial paintings of the world’s most famous ski resorts certainly will. Chances are, you’ve used a Niehues map to plan a great day of shredding moguls.

The legendary artist definitely has a fanbase. His new coffee-table book, James Niehues: The Man Behind the Map, was born thanks to more than 5,000 Kickstarter donors, the highest-supported art-illustration project in the site’s history. This gorgeous 292-page compilation art book is now available on Amazon via the Open Road Ski Company, and it’s the best thing you can put on your coffee table this winter outside of a mug of hot chocolate.

Niehues has been creating these aerial-view masterpieces since 1986, for clients all over the world from North America to China, Australia, and every corner of the world. Over 200 of Niehues’ incredible ski resort maps are included in this book. You can explore the slopes of Aspen, Jackson Hole, Killington, Mont Tremblant, Squaw Valley, Whistler and more.

Also, in Niehues’ own words, you can learn about the painstaking process behind the art. Each hyper-intricate piece can take up to six weeks to complete, hand-painted by brush and airbrush using opaque watercolor to capture all of the natural detail and variations.

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Courtesy of James Niehues
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Courtesy of Amazon

The artist walks you through the entire process of creating his map of Breckenridge, from aerial photography to pencil sketches, in-progress builds and finally the finished trail-map illustration. Famed big-mountain skier Chris Davenport and other ski-industry insiders give their perspectives and words of tribute to these amazing works of art.

The construction of the book is befitting of the art and the artist. Italian art-quality printing and heavyweight matte-coated paper give this hardcover the special feel and heft of a coffee-table book. The cover, protected by anti-scratch treatment, is a pencil sketch of Big Sky ski trails. When opened the book spreads to two feet wide, giving each map ample room to impress.

When you realize how many trails, intersections and features, both natural and man-made, make up a large ski resort, and then see these illustrations up close and personal, you won’t believe these are all drawn by hand. No detail is missed. Every trail is drawn to perfection. As a map, these are amazingly accurate. As an aesthetic addition to your living room, they’re pure art.

If you love to ski, or need a gift for someone who does, this gorgeous book of art is a must-have.