Olympic host cities always tout themselves in superlatives — the friendliest people, the sunniest weather, the most beautiful scenery — but PyeongChang’s pitch is a little unusual: the perfect elevation.

Elevation above

sea level

Too high

Too low

‘Happy 700’

0

meters

1,500

meters

600-800 meters

NORTH

KOREA

PyeongChang

East Sea

(Sea of

Japan)

Seoul

SOUTH KOREA

Yellow Sea

Busan

50 MILES

Too low

Too high

‘Happy 700’

0

meters

1,500

meters

600-800 meters

above sea level

PyeongChang

East Sea

(Sea of Japan)

Seoul

SOUTH KOREA

Yellow Sea

Busan

50 MILES

The city’s slogan, “Happy 700,” refers to its average elevation of 700 meters (2,300 feet), which, according to the official tourism site, is “the best altitude for human biorhythm.”

Sketchy science of biorhythms aside, the city’s just-right elevation combined with its location near water and the Taebaek Mountains means some good snow conditions in winter — perfect for the Winter Games — and relatively cool summers that are inhospitable to mosquitoes. (Think Chicago as far as climate, says Capital Weather Gang meteorologist Angela Fritz.)

Elevation above

sea level

Too high

Too low

‘Happy 700’

0

meters

1,500

meters

600-800 meters

Mount Odaesan

1,563 m (5,128 ft)

Gangneung

Coastal Cluster

Olympic Village—

PyeongChang

Mountain Cluster

PyeongChang

Olympic Stadium

Olympic Village

PyeongChang

Pyongyang

N.K.

Jeongseon

Alpine Centre

Detail

Seoul

SOUTH

KOREA

10 MILES

Too low

Too high

‘Happy 700’

0

meters

1,500

meters

600-800 meters

above sea level

Mount Odaesan

1,563 m (5,128 ft)

Gangneung

Coastal

venues

Olympic Village—

Pyongyang

N.K.

Mountain venues

Detail

Seoul

PyeongChang

Olympic Stadium

SOUTH

KOREA

Olympic Village

PyeongChang

Bokwang

Snow Park

Jeongseon

Alpine Centre

10 MILES

PyeongChang — not to be confused with North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang — is small but, with about 43,000 residents, large enough to have some cultural amenities, resources and infrastructure.

There must be someplace in the United States that fits this perfect combination of altitude, topography and population, right? Using only those three criteria, Post map-meisters set out to find this country’s “Happy 700.”

First, the elevation sweet spot.

Too high

Too low

‘Happy 700’

0

meters

3,000+

meters

600-800 meters

above sea level

500 MILES

1,000 MILES

500 MILES

Too low

Too high

‘Happy 700’

0

meters

3,000+

meters

600-800 meters

above sea level

‘Happy 700’

Lake Placid, NY

1932, 1980

Squaw Valley,

Calif.

1960

Salt Lake City

2002

‘Happy 700’

‘Happy 700’

Mount Whitney

4,421 m (14,505 ft)

‘Happy 700’

‘Happy 700’

500 MILES

Denali

6,190 m (20,310 ft)

250 MILES

500 MILES

Too low

Too high

‘Happy 700’

0

meters

3,000+

meters

600-800 meters

above sea level

‘Happy 700’

Lake Placid, NY

1932, 1980

Squaw Valley, Calif.

1960

Salt Lake City

2002

Mount Whitney

4,421 m (14,505 ft)

‘Happy 700’

‘Happy 700’

‘Happy 700’

‘Happy 700’

500 MILES

Denali

6,190 m (20,310 ft)

250 MILES

500 MILES

Because the United States in general slopes downhill from west to east, most of the west is higher than 2,300 feet and most of the east is lower. But a narrow band runs through the middle that is just right. In addition, a few areas in western valleys and eastern mountains fall into the elevation sweet spot, within 100 meters (about 328 feet) of PyeongChang’s.

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Next, population.

Cities with a population similar to PyeongChang (+/- 10,000)

43K

200K

400K

600K

Coeur d’Alene

50K

‘Happy 700’ zone

500 MILES

Caldwell

53K

Kearney

43K

Pahrump

36K

Marana

43K

Blacksburg

45K

Yucaipa 53K;

Beaumont 45K

1,000 MILES

500 MILES

Cities with a

population similar

to PyeongChang

(+/- 10,000)

600K

200K

Coeur d’Alene,

Idaho

50K

43K

Caldwell, Idaho

53K

‘Happy 700’ zone

Pahrump,

Nev.

36K

Kearney, Neb.

33K

Las Vegas

Blacksburg, Va.

45K

Yucaipa,

Calif.

53K

Scottsdale, Ariz.

Marana, Ariz.

43K

Beaumont,

Calif.

45K

500 MILES

250 MILES

500 MILES

600K

Cities with a

population similar

to PyeongChang

(+/- 10,000)

400K

Coeur d’Alene,

Idaho

50K

200K

43K

Caldwell, Idaho

53K

‘Happy 700’ zone

Kearney, Neb.

33K

Las Vegas

Pahrump, Nev.

36K

Blacksburg, Va.

45K

Yucaipa,

Calif.

53K

Scottsdale, Ariz.

Beaumont,

Calif.

45K

Marana, Ariz.

43K

500 MILES

250 MILES

500 MILES

At least 930 U.S. cities and towns fall within these areas, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. The largest is Las Vegas, with more than 630,000 people. The smallest may be Burton, Neb., with an estimated population of seven. But only eight are similar in size to PyeongChang.

They are Blacksburg, Va., in the east; Kearney, Neb., in the vertical band down the middle of the country, and six places in the west: Pahrump, Nev.; Marana, Ariz.; Caldwell and Coeur d’Alene in Idaho; and Beaumont and Yucaipa in California.

Finally, topography.

Flat

Mountainous

Ski resorts within 50 miles

of the ‘Happy 700’ zone

Other ski resorts

Coeur d’Alene,

Idaho

1,00 MILES

Caldwell,

Idaho

‘Happy 700’ zone

Kearney, Neb.

Pahrump, Nev.

Blacksburg,

Va.

Marana, Ariz.

Yucaipa and

Beaumont,

Calif.

Flat

Mountainous

Ski resorts within 50 miles

of the ‘Happy 700’ zone

Other ski resorts

Coeur d’Alene,

Idaho

Caldwell,

Idaho

‘Happy 700’ zone

Kearney, Neb.

Pahrump, Nev.

Blacksburg, Va.

Yucaipa and

Beaumont,

Calif.

Marana, Ariz.

500 MILES

Flat

Mountainous

Ski resorts within 50 miles

of the ‘Happy 700’ zone

Other ski resorts

Coeur d’Alene,

Idaho

Caldwell,

Idaho

‘Happy 700’ zone

Kearney, Neb.

Pahrump, Nev.

Blacksburg, Va.

Yucaipa and

Beaumont,

Calif.

Marana, Ariz.

500 MILES

Here’s where the rubber meets the . . . er, where the skis meet the snow. PyeongChang, at a very moderate elevation, sits among peaks that provide the monster ski and snowboard runs required by the Olympics. Half of our eight places don’t come close to measuring up. Half of our eight places don’t come close to measuring up.

Kearney, Neb., is the annual fueling stop for 600,000 migrating sandhill cranes, so it has an obvious Olympic mascot. But Kearney is very, very flat — and there is not a decent-size downhill ski or snowboarding area anywhere in the state.

The Appalachians that lifted Blacksburg into the “happy” elevation zone didn’t lift any giant mountains near it. There isn’t a ski run that meets the Olympic minimum for vertical drop — 800 meters (about 2,625 feet) to 750 meters (about 2,460 feet) in exceptional cases — anywhere close.

Marana, Ariz., was No. 3 in a “Best Small Cities in America” list in 2017. Pahrump, Nev., was the hamlet where Martians landed in the kitsch-tastic 1996 movie “Mars Attacks!” (“We come in peace,”) the ambassador said before trying to vaporize everyone.) While both places may be happy, they also are both in the desert.

That leaves four places.

The two California cities, Beaumont and Yucaipa, are just 11 miles apart in the Los Angeles exurbs. They technically fit the elevation, population and topographic profile because they are about an hour’s drive from the large Mount Baldy ski area in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Too high

Too low

‘Happy 700’

0

meters

3,000+

meters

600-800 meters

above sea level

CALIFORNIA

Victorville

Mount High

Pasadena

Big Bear

Big Baldy

Snow

Valley

Los

Angeles

San Bernardino

Yucaipa

Riverside

Anaheim

Beaumont

Pacific

Ocean

Temecula

25 MILES

Too low

Too high

‘Happy 700’

0

meters

3,000+

meters

600-800 meters

above sea level

Ski resorts within 50 miles of the ‘Happy 700’ zone

CALIFORNIA

Victorville

Mount High

Pasadena

Big Bear

Big Baldy

Snow Valley

Los Angeles

San Bernardino

Mount San Gorgonio

3,506 m (11,503 ft)

Yucaipa

Riverside

Anaheim

Beaumont

Palm Springs

Pacific

Ocean

Temecula

25 MILES

But the high temperature predicted in both cities the day the Games begin is 76 degrees. No one wants to see tourists in shorts at the Winter Olympics.

Too high

Too low

‘Happy 700’

0

meters

3,000+

meters

600-800 meters

above sea level

WASH.

150 MILES

—Mt. Spokane

Spokane

MONTANA

—Lookout Pass

Coeur

d’Alene

Silver

Mountain

Missoula

Helena

ORE.

Salmon

River

Mountains

Bogus Basin

Idaho

Falls

WYO.

Boise

Caldwell

IDAHO

NEVADA

UTAH

Too low

Too high

0

meters

3,000+

meters

‘Happy 700’

600-800 meters

above sea level

Other ski resorts

Ski resorts within 50 miles

of the ‘Happy 700’ zone

Schweitzer

Mountain

150 MILES

Silver

Mountain

Seattle

Mt. Spokane—

Spokane

MONTANA

Lookout Pass

WASHINGTON

Coeur

d’Alene

Olympia

Missoula

Helena

Portland

Salem

Salmon

River

Mountains

Bogus Basin

OREGON

Idaho

Falls

WYO.

Caldwell

Boise

IDAHO

CALIFORNIA

NEVADA

UTAH

That leaves the two Idaho contenders, Caldwell and Coeur d’Alene.

Caldwell, which is about 400 miles south in the state’s wine region, has a pretty darn impressive winter light display. And Bogus Basin ski area, which is about 45 miles away, is large enough to host kids’ racing events.

Coeur d’Alene lies by a glacier-carved lake, has plenty of cross-country ski trails and is the birthplace of Olympic snowboarding gold medalist Sage Kotsenburg. Nearby Silver Mountain is a large, if not quite Olympic-caliber, ski resort, and Schweitzer Mountain ski area is 60 miles to the north. What put CDA over the top is its predicted temperature of 40 degrees Feb. 9, which is close to PyeongChang’s forecast.

Congrats, Coeur d’Alene! Judging by elevation, population and topography — and the temperature tiebreaker — you are as close to “Happy 700” as we can get.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly located the Silver Mountain Ski Resort in Idaho. It also stated that the Olympic minimum for vertical drop was 1,480 feet. The actual number is 2,625 feet.

About this story

Elevation data from NASA. Population data from U.S. Census Bureau TIGER places and ACS 2016 five-year population estimates. Ski resort locations from Owner Direct vacation rentals (resorts with fewer than three ski lifts are omitted). Additional sources: Stan Clouse, mayor of Kearney, Neb.; NebraskaFlyway.com; MountainVertical.com

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