The Future Winter Olympic Cities: Who has the Best Weather Conditions?
Pyeongchang was a great Winter games host as it possesses ideal conditions for artificial snowmaking. But with global climate getting warmer, people are starting to wonder whether cities looking to make bids will be deterred, if they don’t have the ideal conditions for natural snow and artificial snowmaking.
We evaluated historical snow depth and air temperature conditions for the 2026 Winter Olympics’ reported bidding cities to see who may have the best probable weather conditions to play host. The Associated Press and its sports reporting team recently dove into our analysis and shared their thoughts to their global readership in the concluding days of the Pyeongchang games. You can check out the article here. The Associated Press story was picked up by news outlets around the world including The New York Times, The Daily Mail, and others.
For the analysis we used the Planet OS Datahub and API provided by Intertrust that enable fast and easy access to large-scale climate datasets. We also included the expected weather for Beijing that will host the next Winter games in 2022.
We crunched data for the following cities:
- Beijing, China
- Graz and Schladming, Austria
- Erzurum, Turkey
- Sion, Switzerland
- Are and Stockholm, Sweden
- Sapporo, Japan
- Salt Lake City, United States
- Calgary, Canada
Assessing the data from the past 39 years from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) ERA-Interim reanalysis datasets, we found that Sapporo, Japan and Calgary, Canada are likely the best places to host the 2026 Winter games.
- To have the best natural snow conditions, you need to possess the most consistent frigid temperatures and Calgary is winner in that category. Its January and February average temperatures have been 12 degrees and 16 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively.
- Artificial snowmaking conditions are most ideal when air temperatures reach 25.7 degrees Fahrenheit, and Sapporo, Japan had the 2nd most consistent cold air temperatures over the 39 year period offering the ideal conditions.
- In a close second were both cities in Austria and Sion, Switzerland. The Austrian cities have had great natural snowfall but nearly a third of the time they would have had difficulty producing artificial snow in January. Sion’s average temperature reading is what pushed them down the ladder. It’s averaged temperatures in January above 25.6 degrees on 22 out of 31 years.
- For Salt Lake City to host again, they’ll need to rely on artificial snowmaking. Only 13 of the last 39 January’s have had good natural snow conditions.
- But don’t count out Turkey. Going against them is their smaller snowfall totals despite averaging 22 degrees Fahrenheit in January and February. They’d have to potentially rely on artificial snowmaking.
Our analysis offers another layer of useful insights International Olympic Committee can take into consideration as they near a decision on a 2026 host city. In addition, the bid cities can rely on these insights to better prepare and plan their budgets for hosting the Olympic Games, including estimated costs for artificial snow making.
Best of luck to the bidding cities!
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