Mountains of the Olympics

Just because a Winter Olympics’ host city is farther north does not mean altitudes and weather conditions in which athletes compete are higher and snowier than Games held farther south. Temperatures vary with latitude and normally
decrease with altitude, impacting snow amounts of host cities and
their venues. Most Winter Olympics took place within the
40° and 50° latitude range, and all of the host cities are in
the northern hemisphere. Here is a look at where
Winter Olympics have been held since 1960.

Farthest north

The Winter Olympics’ most northern location was Lillehammer, Norway, in 1994. Its downhill skiing venue was the lowest in altitude compared with Sochi and past Games since 1960.

Altitude disparity

The 1992 Games in Albertville, France, had the widest altitude spread (8,120 feet) between the host city and its Alpine skiing event. The narrowest spread (2,713 feet) was 1960 Squaw Valley, Calif. Salt Lake City in 2002 had the highest venue.

Coastal hosts

Sochi is not the first host city to be in a coastal area. The 1972 Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan, and the 2010 Games in Vancouver also took place in host cities located near sea level. Sochi’s high mountain range venues, located 26 miles from Sochi, can support winter sports.

Farthest south

The 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, were the farthest south of all of the Games.

Hover over locations for details.



2,000 1,0003,0004,0005,0006,0007,0008,000 FEET1,0002,0003,0004,0005,0006,0007,0008,0009,000 FEET60°55°50°45°40°35°HOST CITYALTITUDE OFSKIING VENUESEA LEVEL TO EQUATORTO NORTH POLE

SOURCES: Factsheet: Olympic Winter Games, update January 2008; International Olympic Committee; Sochi2014.

Published Feb. 5, 2014.

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