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French ski resort maps

I wanted to draw people's attention to what I think is an excellent piece of representation- the Ski resort maps they produce in France.

This is about the best scan I've found (and it's not brilliant), and I can find no information about them at all, but they are clear, easy to read, represent all the relevant data, and most impressively of all, manage to represent multi-valley systems in a way that preserves the pattern, arrangement, curvature and length of lifts and slopes. They are obviously a gross distortion, but they work brilliantly.

Does anyone have any more information about these maps?

-- Stefan Magdalinski (email)


Excellent! Good sense of the relation of each set of trails to the others.

-- Edward Tufte

Response to French Ski Resort maps

I'd think that the images of the mountains have to be hand-illustrated, since a photograph's perspective would lack the necessary "gross distortion" of panoramic vision that allows such a broad view to be presented at a common scale.

A case of something that's supposedly true-to-life failing to accurately depict the necessary version of reality. Much like in Henry James' "The Real Thing," if we want to get all heavy about it...

-- Matt Frost (email)

Worldwide ski maps

The following web site has links to similar ski area maps around the globe.

-- Mark Kasinskas (email)

Response to French Ski Resort maps

Remember the times maps showed the waves of the sea, the ships that explored Terra Incognita and even drew your attention where to go chasing dragons: "Hic sunt dracones"? After the quantitative revolution, it is about time cartographers appreciate again that maps do not necessarily have to be a purely objective, true-to-scale representations of the real world in order to convey geographic information.

The map highlighted by Stefan reminds me of the excellent (cartographic) works of art by Heinrich Berann ( He made some great panoramic maps, especially of mountain areas. How some of his manual techniques can be re-created using computer software is extensively covered by Tom Patterson from the U.S. National Park Service (

-- Edward Mac Gillavry (email)

Response to French Ski Resort maps

Have you seen the new three-dimensional ski-maps made by Mountmaps? Basically, folds are used to show the peaks and valleys of the resort.(See for an example.)

I found that these maps are useful for orienting yourself within a large resort. However, the paper map still has a lot of advantages on the slopes. The paper is higher-resolution with more detail, less expensive if you lose it and easier to mark with a pen.

-- Antoin O Lachtnain (email)

Response to French Ski Resort maps

To Stefan Magdalinski's original comment,

This is work belongs to Pierre Novat.

The website >>>

Unfortunatelly (for me), the whole site is in French.

You might also would like to take a look at another great map artist, James Niehues.

His website is here >>>

To Antoin O Lachtnain,

I do like the Mount Maps, although I haven't as yet got hold of one. I think that these maps will only get better and better. Bare in mind that the company does not only have it's sights on the use of the maps on ski resorts, but also investigate their applicability in other products, such as books.

Regarding your comment about cost, I agree that the cost in case of a loss will be higher, but they come with lanyards (which is optional not as part of the map - bought seperately). I think they did that more for reasons of practicality rather than the fear of loss, although it serves both purposes.

Thank you : )

-- Hammer (email)

Response to Ski resort maps

3D maps of ski resorts:

-- Hammer (email)

Response to Ski resort maps

I've just come back from a skiing holiday where we used a piste map much like the val d'isere one linked to by the original poster.

A couple of things bugged us about it.

1) near the peaks it can sometimes be hard to see which way is uphill. 2) at interconnections (bottom / top of lifts are worst) there is often far too much detail crammed together.

We wondered whether a schematically simple 'london tube map' style piste map would be helpful. Distances are still approximated, but reality can go out the window around interconnections (as it does in the central london tube map) for the sake of fitting it all in clearly.

The piste map differs from the tube in that you are able to stop between interconnections (stations) and have a look around, but we usually followed a run to the bottom and a map that showed our options on the way down (turn off for a 'red' here or stick on the blue run) would have been more use than one showing all the curves of the run superimposed on a pretty mountain.

Perhaps they're designed to serve off-pisters as well as pisters.

Still the level of detail I felt could be beneficially reduced.

-- Sam Neillond (email)

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