When he was a toddler, Miles started sketching maps of places he conjured in his imagination. Now 10, Miles has filled books, poster boards and countless papers with his maps of cities and countries, both real and imagined.
Shortly after opening the wrapping paper on “The Man Behind the Maps” on Christmas Day 2019, the avid skier turned his map-making eye toward ski hills, laboring in the shadow of the legendary map artist Jim Niehues.
This January, Miles got to meet the man behind the maps.
“He was just floored,” says his dad Nick. “He’s still talking about it. Jim will be an inspiration for him for years to come because of the experience he had meeting him.”
The feeling is mutual for Niehues. In the last several months, before the sweep of COVID-19, Niehues relished an emphatic embrace by the ski community. Hundreds attended his book-signing events in Boston, Los Angeles, Denver, Vail and Breckenridge. They waited in long lines for a few minutes with the man who shepherded their best days.
There was the man who, as a 9-year-old, sent letters to every resort he could find, asking them to send him a ski map. Only when all the maps were pinned on his bedroom wall did he realize they all were painted by the same artist. There were kids like Miles and gray-hairs who remember Niehues’ first works and everyone in between. Grandparents got books for their grandchildren. Kids had books signed for their parents and grandparents.
Each interaction elevated a dawning for Niehues, who only now is coming to grips with the sweeping impact his work has had on generations of skiers.
“It’s been eye-opening and humbling, this past several months,” Niehues says. "The ski community is so passionate and I'm honored to be a part of it.”