Ski Trail Maps - Memory Keepers for Skiers

August 23, 2022

Ski Trail Maps - Memory Keepers for Skiers

As many mountain resorts consider doing away with the paper trail map, it has got me thinking about my own collection of maps. We’ve all experienced that moment when we pulled out last years ski parka and found a pocket trail map from the prior spring of the last place you skied. At that moment, you need to make a choice, toss it or keep it. If you are like me, you find it difficult to throw out the map. Like photos, trail maps hold memories of a special place, who you were with, how much it snowed that year, and more.

For years these memory keepers landed in a drawer which soon became know as the map drawer. The drawer also included maps from great trips to foreign cities like Paris, Beijing, East Berlin, small beachside towns like Nantucket and Cadecas and great hikes like the Appalachian trail and Camel's Hump State Park.

Occasionally I’d stumble upon them and think “I need to clear out the clutter and toss these”, but alas, I could not. That pile in the drawer survived 12 years living in a NYC apartment and then a move to the suburbs. 

About 20 years ago I got serious about doing something with the map drawer, more specifically the ski trail maps.  First I thought about framing just the few that held more significance such as the two places my husband and I grew up skiing, the first place we skied together (Sugarbush) or our first trip to the Alps. But every map held such fond memories that I decided to frame them all. I framed over 30 ski maps that year and hung them in the loft of our old barn. At the time the loft had a ping pong table and soon after we added a bouldering wall. (The basket ball hoop covered with ski resort stickers is for another blog post!)

When fellow skiers would come to one of our barn parties we’d have deep discussions about each and every map. “Which place is your favorite? (I can’t pick one!)  Lots of stories told about the horrible drive followed by the best days of skiing. I can’t help but think about the images of cars topped with 9 ft of snow when we pulled into Crested Butte and the fun we had in the days that followed when I look at that trail map or the Argentinian ski instructor with the amazing goggle tan who popped a back flip as he skied off with our ten year old when I see the Snowmass map. I love our version of the Mad River Glen map which me kids“updated” to include all the unnamed secret trails not listed on the map that hold secret stashes of powder for days. That one is not framed for public consumption, but looking at the framed unedited map minds me of our version.

For a few years I’d frame a few more maps as we continued to explore new places. Then one day the framing got pushed to the side. The walls were pretty full. Life got in the way.

I love skiing new places and my pile of new maps needing framing keeps growing. I recently counted all the different places I’ve skied in my life. At last count I was up to 74. I’m not sure I have enough wall space even if I were able to track down some of the resorts I skied at as a kid.

As paper maps give way to digital maps, we will adjust. We will remember those special days with different ways to relive a great day in the mountains. When I choose which images of my vintage toy skiers to include for sale, each one of them represents to me and hopefully others a feeling associated with the joy of skiing and conjures up memories from days worth remembering, with or without the trail map.

Hooey Mountain's barn filled with framed ski trail maps