Since the birth of British skiing in Mürren, Brits have fought for the elusive gold medal on snow.

Britain has successfully dominated on ice in a variety of disciplines, including figure skating, skeleton and curling. This year’s aim of winning 5 medals across all disciplines may seem ambitious - but how has Britain done in the past?

The Winter Olympics were born of the International Winter Sports Week in 1924, an event which brought together 16 nations, including Great Britain, to compete in events from skating to Nordic skiing. It is tied as one of Great Britain’s most successful Winter Games, with us winning 4 medals, including a gold in men’s curling. 

Elsewhere in Switzerland, around the same period, Brits were revolutionizing ski racing. Though Nordic skiing was included in these early games, skiing was yet to be popularised. Sir Arnold Lunn, founder of the Kandahar Ski Club and President of the Ski Club of Great Britain, had a major role in developing Alpine ski racing and drove for its inclusion in the Olympics. In 1922, Lunn set a slalom course where skiers were judged on speed rather than style. 

During the early games, medal tables were dominated by Scandinavian countries, particularly Norway. As years progressed, Great Britain made their stamp on ice rather than snow. It was in St Moritz in 1928 that Britain won its first bronze medal in Skeleton – a sport in which we have excelled in recent years. It was only in 1936 that, encouraged by Arnold Lunn, Alpine skiing was included for the first time and the Winter Games were changed forever. The skiing programme consisted of a single event – the Combined, where the results of a downhill run and a slalom run were added together. 

In the 1936 Olympics, Britain won medals across Bobsleigh, Figure Skating and gold in Ice Hockey. When the Winter Olympics returned after World War Two, it saw the rise of one of the most successful British Winter Olympians. Jeannette Altwegg won bronze in Figure Skating in the 1948 Olympics in St Moritz and went on to win gold in the following 1952 Games.

Jeanette Altwegg

This marked a break in British Winter Olympic medals for quite some time. Only one medal was won by Britain for 25 years, and that was in the 1964 Games in Innsbruck. Italy’s Eugenio Monti helped British duo Tony Nash and Robin Dixon win gold in the two-man bobsleigh, with the ultimate act of sportsmanship, by loaning them a replacement axle bolt.

Britain entered a period of huge success in the 1970s and 1980s, with successive gold medal wins at several Olympics. Having been flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony in Innsbruck, John Curry won a gold medal in Figure Skating for GB in 1976, achieving the highest points total in the history of men’s figure skating at the time. Robin Cousins went on to win another gold in the 1980 competition, tripping as he stepped onto the podium to accept his medal. In 1984, Torvill and Dean won gold for their iconic ice dance to Bolero, achieving the highest score for a single routine with twelve 6.0s and six 5.9s. In 1994, they would go on to win a bronze medal, cementing their position amongst Britain’s most successful Winter Olympians.

John Curry

Britain gained plenty of attention in Calgary 1988, as ski racer turned ski jumper Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards flew into the public eye, in a moment that became the definition of ‘it’s the taking part that counts’. He was the first, and only, British competitor in the 70m and 90m ski jump.

Eddie 'The Eagle' Edwards

Over the period of the next fifteen years, sports now unanimous with snow sport were added to the Olympic schedule, including Super G (Super Giant Slalom), short track speed skating, freestyle skiing and snowboarding. These sports helped the Winter Olympics garner more public attention than ever, as an ever-growing television audience were drawn to these sports.

Britain were revitalized in 2002, when skeleton was reintroduced to the Salt Lake City Olympics. Alex Coomber won a bronze medal, followed by Shelley Rudman’s silver in Turin (2006), and gold medals for both Amy Williams in Vancouver (2010) and Lizzie Yarnold in Sochi (2014). Meanwhile, Britain was seeing similar success in curling, with a gold medal in 2002 for the women’s team, and silver and bronze for the men’s and women’s teams respectively in 2014.

Amy Williams, Vancouver 2010

All of this success on ice has led to one simple question – when would Great Britain win a medal on snow? That dream seemed to have been realized at Salt Lake City when Alain Baxter took bronze in the Slalom in the 2002 games. However, a week later it turned into a nightmare for Baxter & GB as the medal was stripped due to a failed drug test. Several appeals followed on the basis that Baxter had accidentally used a decongestant product that did not contain a banned substance in the UK, but the US version had an ingredient that could trigger a positive test, but the appeals failed to reinstate his medal.

Our biggest hope for a snow medal between 2002 & 2014 was Chemmy Alcott, who shot up the Downhill rankings in 2002 at the age of just 19. Chemmy managed 14th in the Combined at her first Olympics in Salt Lake, 11th in Downhill in 2006, and 11th in Super Combined at the Vancouver Games. A broken leg late in preparation for Sochi 2014 meant that her last Olympic performances were lower down the rankings.

Chemmy Alcott

Snowboard Cross and Ski Cross were introduced in 2006 (Torino) and 2010 (Vancouver) respectively, and Sochi 2014 marked a major change as Halfpipe skiing and Slopestyle made their Olympic debuts. History was finally made in 2014 in Sochi, when snowboarder Jenny Jones became the first British athlete to win a medal on snow when she won a bronze medal in the women's Slopestyle event.

Perhaps with the introduction of further sports (including big air snowboarding) for the 2018 games, and Jenny Jones’ medal to inspire them, this year’s Olympians are that much closer to medals than ever before, and we may finally beat the record set in the first ever Games.

Jenny Jones wins her bronze medal at Sochi, 2014