It was on a chair lift at a North Carolina ski resort that Rad Smith realized he was quite literally stuck. His red nylon pants, used in lieu of snow pants, were glued to the frozen seat below him. “It was the 80s,” Rad explains to FREESKIER in regard to his outfit choice.
The frozen graphic design artist hadn’t grown up cruising the mountain. It was his first day on the slopes when he found himself glued to the edge of the seat. “I stood up… and some of the fabric stayed behind,” Rad laughs. Chair lift: 1, Rad’s nylon pants: 0.
Despite an interesting intro to the world of skiing and snowboarding, Rad wasn’t swayed from mountain sports. He chose to combine his newfound passion for snow sports and his professional background in graphic design by making small-scale digital maps for resorts and real estate properties. Years and many pairs of snow pants later, legendary map maker James Niehues became his teacher in large-scale trail maps. “James had a really organic approach to map making,” Rad explains. “He was a purist in the fact that he painted everything by hand.” Originally, Rad sought to use his skills in graphic design to tackle large ski maps but soon realized there was nothing quite like putting paintbrush to canvas. “It absolutely furthered my skill as an observer,” says Rad.
In 2021, Keystone Resort approached Rad with a pitch to design a map of their newest addition—the Bergman Bowl. “Previously, the Bergman Bowl had only been accessible via hiking or snowcat,” says Keystone’s general manager Chris Sorensen. The game-changing addition, now reachable by chair lift, includes more than 550 acres of intermediate and advanced terrain. Chris goes on to say that “a small minority of guests were able to experience Bergman Bowl in the past, now we are opening up that experience to the majority.”
Bergman Bowl is far from the first addition in Keystone’s trail map history. Since the resort’s grand opening in 1970, the Keystone skiable terrain has significantly grown. “We first welcomed skiers with one base area, Mountain House and one peak, Dercum Mountain,” Chris says.
“In 1984, we added North Peak to our footprint, offering nine new intermediate and advanced trails, raising Keystone’s highest lift-accessed elevation to 11,660 feet.”
“In 1990 we added our third peak, The Outback. Our tallest and furthest lift-served peak at the team, reaching heights of 11,980 feet.”
“Since The Outback, we’ve continued to expand our skiable terrain, opening access to our five high alpine bowls and growing our skiable footprint to 3,149 acres.”
“This season we adventure to further new heights with the Bergman Express, a high-speed chairlift rising to over 12,200 feet and offering 16 new alpine trails for intermediate-and-above riders,” explains Chris.
With the Bergman Bowl addition comes a reimagining of the ski map originally designed by James Nieheus and prior, Bill C. Brown. Before embarking on the functional work of art, Rad knew he had to strike a balance between paying homage to the historical design and foraging his own stamp. “I love a challenge,” Rad explains. “When you visit the Bergman Bowl, there’s this sense of awe. My job is to translate that emotion into my painting.”
Through detailed brush strokes, airbrushed shading and vivid colors, Rad depicts the future of Keystone Resort. His map is much more than a stunning work of art, it’s a gateway to adventure. Starting winter 2023/2024, the Bergman Express will open for intermediate and advanced skiers.