The first Winter Olympics—then called International Winter Sports Week—were held from Jan. 25 through Feb. 5, 1924, in the small French town of Chamonix, France. The multi-sport event featured 260 athletes representing 16 countries in five sports: bobsleigh, curling, ice hockey, Nordic skiing, and skating. Chamonix emerged from obscurity and into the spotlight as athletes publicly displayed their talents in various competitions from figure skating to cross-country skiing in front of more than 10,000 spectators. In 1926, the event was retroactively reclassified as the first-ever Olympic Winter Games.
Stacker curated a collection of 25 vintage photos from the competition, drawing from various sources to showcase groundbreaking sports milestones and athletic visionaries.
Among the nations participating in the first Winter Olympics were France, the United States, Canada, Norway, Italy, Great Britain, Poland, and Yugoslavia. The U.S. dominated the 500-meter speed skating event, while Canada secured several wins in ice hockey. The 1920s were also a time when women and young girls were allowed more freedom to partake in sports, even if it was a predictable winter sport such as figure skating. The photos in this collection showcase the excitement of the Games, stunning landscapes, and strikingly sparse gear of the athletes—including ice hockey players and bobsleigh teams competing without helmets.
The Winter Games were held every four years thereafter, pausing in 1940 and 1944 because of World War II. Olympic schedules were altered in the ’90s, and over the years more sports and competitions have been added including luge, freestyle skiing, and snowboarding. Keep reading to learn more about the first Winter Olympics and to see stunning photos from the various events.