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The Olympic Winter Games is a major international sporting event held once every four years, for sports practiced on snow and ice. The first Winter Olympics, the 1924 Winter Olympics, was held in Chamonix, France. The original five sports (broken into nine disciplines) were bobsleigh, curling, ice hockey, Nordic skiing (consisting of the disciplines military patrol, cross-country skiing, Nordic combined, and ski jumping), and skating (consisting of the disciplines figure skating and speed skating). The Games were held every four years from 1924 to 1936, interrupted in 1940 and 1944 by World War II, and resumed in 1948. Until 1992 the Winter and Summer Olympic Games were held in the same years, but in accordance with a 1986 decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to place the Summer and Winter Games on separate four-year cycles in alternating even-numbered years.
The Winter Games have evolved since their inception. Sports and disciplines have been added and some of them, such as Alpine skiing, luge, short track speed skating, freestyle skiing, skeleton, and snowboarding, have earned a permanent spot on the Olympic programme. Some others, including curling and bobsleigh, have been discontinued and later reintroduced; others have been permanently discontinued, such as military patrol, though the modern Winter Olympic sport of biathlon is descended from it. Still others, such as speed skiing, bandy and skijoring, were demonstration sports but never incorporated as Olympic sports.
As of 2017 twelve countries – Austria, Canada, Finland, France, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States – have sent athletes to every Winter Olympic Games. Six of those – Austria, Canada, Finland, Norway, Sweden and the United States – have earned medals at every Winter Olympic Games, and only one – the United States – has earned gold at each Games. Norway leads both in terms of number of gold medals and overall number of medals.