February 4 marks the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing! It seems like just yesterday—or 14 years ago—that the Summer Games were held in the same city. It may surprise you that many winter sports were featured during the Summer Games before the first official Winter Olympics debuted in Chamonix, France, in 1924. If you can’t get enough of cold weather sports any time of year, you’re in the right place. Below you’ll find a history of some of your favorite Winter Olympic events, plus lists of colleges that excel in those sports. Let the games begin!
Biathlon debuted at the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California. It combines two sports—cross-country skiing and shooting—with athletes skiing on a trail and shooting rounds dividing the distance. Events are treated as races and include Sprint, Individual, Pursuit, Mass Start, and Relay. Missed shots add more distance or time to each athlete’s total, with medals being awarded to five men, five women, and one mixed team. Interested in these two sports? Check out the lists below (and discover more great places for skiing later in the blog!).
Figure skating is the oldest sport of the Winter Olympics, first appearing during the Summer Games in London 1908 and Antwerp 1920. Men’s, women’s, and pairs were the only events until 1976, when ice dancing was added in Innsbruck, Austria. The program further evolved when a mixed-team event debuted at Sochi 2014. Figure skating is a fan favorite and one of the most popular sports of the Winter Games. If you agree, check out this list of colleges where figure skaters can thrive.
Ice hockey debuted in Antwerp 1920 but was moved to the Winter program at Chamonix in 1924—the first official year of the Winter Olympic Games as we know it. Two events include the men’s tournament and women’s tournament, with 12 men’s teams and 10 women’s competing in the series. This year’s hockey games will be played at the Wukesong Sports Centre in Beijing, which was built as a basketball arena for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games and can be converted to a hockey rink in less than six hours. If you love to play or watch this exciting sport, consider the colleges and hockey programs on the following lists.
- Colleges With Strength in Men's Ice Hockey
- Colleges With Great Men's Hockey Division I
- Colleges With Great Women's Ice Hockey Teams
- Strong Club Hockey Programs
There are many opportunities to watch different styles of skiing during the Winter Games. Alpine competition features 11 events for men and women, including Downhill, Super-G, Slalom, Giant Slalom, and Alpine Combined, plus a mixed-team event. Cross-country events include Classic, Skiathlon, Mass Start Free, Team Sprint Classic, and Relays for both men and women. Freestyle has added many events over the years, such as Ski Cross, Halfpipe, and Slopestyle, plus Big Air and Mixed-Team Freestyle Skiing Aerials debuting this year in Beijing. Nordic combined is a pairing of ski-jumping and cross-country skiing that has been a part of the Winter Olympic Games since its debut in 1924, though it’s exclusively for males and includes no events for women. Finally, ski jumping has also been a staple of the Winter Games since 1924 and features three men’s events, one women’s event, and a mixed-team event—which is new for this year! If any of these skiing styles excites you, check out the colleges and towns that love the sport just as much as you with the following rankings.
Snowboarding is relatively new to the Winter Olympics, having debuted in Nagano, Japan, in 1998. Men and women compete in 11 events, including Parallel Giant Slalom, Snowboard Cross, Halfpipe, Slopestyle, Big Air, and a Mixed-Team Snowboard Cross. Some events are judged by a panel evaluating trick difficulty, run execution, and jump landings and techniques, while others are races in which the first one over the finish line wins. Although Shaun White didn’t go to college, he would’ve had a lot of fun at the schools on the following list.
We may not have college lists for every Winter Olympics sport—sorry bobsleigh, curling, luge, skeleton, and speed skating fans—but you never know which school may offer these unique activities as teams, clubs, or other student groups. Use our College Search tool and featured college profiles to do more research and discover schools (or sports) you may have never even heard of before. Good luck and go Team USA!
More of a warm weather person? Check out our other article about Gold–Medal Colleges for Summer Olympic Sports.