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Acclaimed Colorado ski trail painter James Niehues retires — but not before passing the torch

Breckenridge Mountain and Street Scene
James Niehues
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Breckenridge Mountain & Street Scene in Breckenridge, Colorado. Painted by James Niehues in 1989 for Snow Country Magazine

Ski map artist James Niehues recently announced his retirement from hand-painting ski trail maps. Niehues, who lives in Parker, Colorado, has painted more than 200 ski resort maps in multiple countries over his 30-year career.

But Niehues is passing the torch of his craft forward. Rad Smith, a Bozeman, Montana-based map illustrator and cartographer, has been studying under Niehues for six years. And now, as Niehues moves on to a new project painting American landscapes, Smith is continuing the work.

Niehues and Smith joined Colorado Edition from their respective studios in Parker and Bozeman to talk about retirement, the art of ski map painting and where the field is headed now.

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As a producer for Colorado Edition, I pitch segment ideas, pre-interview guests, craft scripts and cut audio. I also write tweets, build web posts and occasionally host.
As host of KUNC's Colorado Edition, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. And because life is best when it's a balance of work and play, I love finding stories that highlight culture, music, the outdoors, and anything that makes Colorado such a great place to live.