The legendary artist behind most of Utah's ski maps now takes on national parks

The legendary artist behind most of Utah's ski maps now takes on national parks

(Courtesy James Niehues)

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — James Niehues is a legend when it comes in depicting ski resorts and slopes across the world.

His hand-painted work over the past few decades, which landed him in the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, includes hand-painted drawings of nearly all of Utah's 15 resorts, as well as the Wasatch Front and Utah Olympic Park.

But now, after 35 years in the resort business, Niehues is making a shift when it comes to drawing and painting the outdoors.

The Colorado-based artist announced Tuesday that he's stepping away from resorts and focusing his creative talents on the United States' national parks. His next challenge is sketching 50 of the national parks' most iconic views in the same way he captured the world's ski resorts.

In coordination with that announcement, he released his first four national parks art pieces, which included a black-and-white sketch of the view of Angels Landing at Zion National Park. He also showcased Western favorites Grand Canyon, Grand Teton and Yosemite national parks in his initial release.

In all, he plans to have fans of his work help him decide the other few dozen landscapes that he will work on.

The announcement Tuesday was well-received on social media from his fans in the outdoors and arts community. The artist and his publisher, Open Road Ski Company, also announced that 10% of sales of any prints of the pieces will go toward the National Parks Conservation Alliance.

Niehues described his meticulous art process to in 2019 after he made a visit to a Salt Lake City pub as a part of a book signing tour.

He said he first scouts out a location through Google Earth before boarding a plane and taking aerial photos of a location. After which he draws that location from a birds-eye view. His ski resort artwork typically takes a few months to even years to complete.

The initial release Tuesday shows a similar approach for depicting national park landscapes from above, even if the point of view is a bit closer to ground.

"I have always been inspired by Ansel Adams' sense of drama, composition and lighting, which to me have always been most profoundly depicted in his National Parks work," said Niehues, in a statement Tuesday. "This project is a new chapter for me and I am thrilled to share my interpretation of the greatest National Parks and landscapes in America."

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Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for He previously worked for the Deseret News. He is a Utah transplant by the way of Rochester, New York.


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