Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Geography

Committee Chair

Kevin McManigal

Commitee Members

Sarah Halvorson, James Bailey


Ski map, cartography, ski resort, map, James Niehues


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Other Geography


The first official ski resort in North America opened to the public in 1936 in Sun Valley, Idaho. Today, there are over 400 resorts across the continent in constant competition with one another for customers. Ski maps were first introduced as navigational tools, but quickly became a means for advertising what the resorts had to offer. The desire to outshine rival resorts has produced thousands of unique ski maps over the years, forming a collection of maps that has never been comprehensively analyzed until now. The first phase of the thesis involved the gathering of historical and modern ski maps to be examined and catalogued into a database. A total of 1,779 maps were archived along with relevant attribute information concerning the style and design of each map. This database, in addition to interviews with key informants and historical texts, helps to provide a complete picture of North American ski mapping history for the first time. The second phase of the thesis was a quantitative survey of skiers and snowboarders to assess users’ impressions and satisfaction levels of modern ski maps. Several examples of ski maps were presented to the survey respondents, and they were asked to provide their opinions and concerns about the overall appearance of the map. It was found that most respondents preferred the traditional painted panoramic style over other styles of printed ski maps, and many were hesitant about the effectiveness of newer mobile ski mapping alternatives. While it appears that printed maps are around to stay for now, the recent retirement of prominent ski map painter James Niehues may signify the demise of traditionally hand-painted ski resort maps. Extensive literature already exists regarding the reproduction of hand-painted panoramas using computer software programs, and as the digital image becomes more accepted in our culture it is possible that many future ski resort maps will be digitally-rendered.

SkiMapsNew.accdb (1032 kB)



© Copyright 2015 Amy Elizabeth Lippus