The different Winter Olympic sports explained

Every four years, the Winter Olympics rolls around and since beginning in 1924 the games have produced some fantastic scenes.  Winter sports are exhilarating to watch and one of the reasons for this is speed!  Most winter sports involve a sled, skis, board or blade, and add these to ice and you get people moving at very high speeds!  Apart from wingsuit flying and base jumping, the winter sports category holds all the fastest non-motoristed sports.

Below are all 15 Winter Olympic Sports explained:


Alpine Skiing

Alpine skiing

Alpine has been a Winter Olympic sports since 1936 and is traditionally dominated by the Alpine countries, particularly Austria.

Cross Country Skiing / XC Skiing / Nordic Ski

In cross-country skiing, skiers rely on their own locomotion up and downhill in races,  it one of the toughest endurance sports at its core, but what makes it different to the likes of marathon running is that it is as physically demanding of an athlete’s arms as it is their legs.   It has been an Winter Olympic sport since 1924 and is always dominated by the Norwegians.

Ski Jumping

Always a massively entertaining one to watch, Ski Jumping competitors aim to achieve the longest jump after descending from a specially designed ramp on their skis.  Competitions are referred by their K-point distances rather than their run length prior to launching from the ski jump and are 90 meters for the normal hill and 120 meters for the large hill.

Freestyle Skiing

These are the skiing acrobats!  Freestyle skiing is broken up into disciplines comprising of – aerials, moguls, cross, half-pipe, slopestyle and big air as part of the Winter Olympics.  It has only been an Olympic event since 1992 after a hugely successful demonstration at the 1988 winter games.

The greatest skiers of all time

Nordic Combined

Athletes compete in cross-country skiing and ski jumping combined event, the event has been contested since the first Winter Olympics in 1924.



A Biathlon is a combination of cross-country skiing and target shooting, it’s a hugely demanding sport, both physically and mentally.

Other multi-disciplined sports

Ice Hockey

Hockey on Ice was introduced first at the 1920 Summer Olympics and was moved and was then moved to the Winter Olympics in 1924, in France.  The women’s tournament was first held at the 1998 Winter Olympics.  Ice Hockey is an incredibly fast and tough, the Canadians have long dominated this sport.


A close relation of Bowls, Curling is a sport in which players slide stones on a sheet of ice toward a target area which is segmented into four concentric circles.  It’s definitely the slowest of the winter sports and is again dominated by the Canadians.

The greatest Winter Olympians over the years


An Olympic sport since 1992, there are 6 different snowboarding events – giant slalom, halfpipe, snowboard cross, parallel slalom, big air and slopestyle.  The USA are the most prolific medal winners.

Sled Sports



The sled sports are the fastest Olympic sports of all which makes for some great racing.  Bobsleigh is an original Olympic event and team winter sport that involves making timed runs down narrow, twisting, banked, iced tracks in a gravity-powered sleigh.  There is a 2 and four person event and 2022 will see a new single person event called Monobob.


Luge is a one or two-person event where you lie on your back on a flat sled and race down specially designed ice track.  Luge has been an Olympic sport since 1964.

The fastest field sports


Skeleton - Winter Sport

Skeleton is the opposite of Luge where you lie face down and race down an ice track, different to the other sports, skeleton is a single person.  It’s the original sled sport and can be dated back to the 16th century.

Skating Sports

Short Skating

Introduced first at the 1992 games, short skating is a competitive ice speed skating event where skaters race around an oval ice track with a length of 111.112 metres (364.54 ft).

The most successful countries at the Winter Olympics

Speed Skating

Similar to short skating, speed skating is broken up into 4 different events – 500m, 1500m, 5000m and 10000m

Figure Skating

Another hugely popular winter sport,  figure skating involves individuals, duos, or groups performing on the ice rink.  It was the first ever winter sport to be included in the Olympic Games, at the 1908 Olympics in London.

There are four Olympic disciplines are men’s singles, ladies’ singles, pair skating, and ice dance.

The 10 greatest Winter Olympic moments


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