Winter Sports in Sarajevo

The greater Sarajevo area – which takes in the mountains, Bjelašnica, Jahorina, Igman and Trebević, all of which are covered by deep snow during the winter – is quite an attractive destination for those who love winter sports.

Back during the Ottoman period, liguranje, a unique predecessor of sledding, was popular, but with the arrival of the Austro-Hungarians, skiing, skating and the modern version of sledding came to the city on the Miljacka.

First Yugoslavian Ski Show 

Between the two world wars, the mountains around Sarajevo were full of avid skiers who established the first mountain-ski lodges and ski jumps and in 1937 the First Yugoslavian Ski Show was held in Pale, making it the first competition of its kind to be held in this part of the world.

After WWII, the quick pace of development in Sarajevo was matched by the development of sports and recreational centers on the nearby mountains, and the name “Jahorina” became known throughout the world as a new and popular ski destination.

Once the first cable car was installed in 1953 to tie in with the International Students Winter Week (a predecessor of the Winter University Games), which was held in 1955, and given the many European and international skiing competitions that were held, Jahorina gradually acquired the status of a world-renowned ski center.

With aspirations of affirming the Sarajevo region as an exceptional site for the development of winter sports, the idea of suggesting Sarajevo as a candidate to host the greatest winter sporting event – the Winter Olympic Games (WOG) – was born in the 1970s.

Sarajevo’s candidacy was accepted during the 80th session of the International Olympic Committee, which was held in Athens on May 18, 1978, and Sarajevo was entrusted with the task of organizing the XIV WOG, having beaten out rival candidate cities, Sapporo and Gothenburg.

Winter Olympic Games in Sarajevo

The short period in 1984 (Feb. 8-19) when the Olympic flame was ablaze in Sarajevo, is seen by many as the most beautiful time in our city’s history and the XIV WOG were rightly considered the most well organized Games up to that time.

The Men’s Alpine Ski events were held on Bjelašnica, and Jahorina hosted the Women’s Alpine Ski events; Nordic combined races and ski jumps were held on Igman and the bob sled and luge events took place up on Trebević.

The Olympics not only left lasting memories for Sarajevans, but also contributed to the overall development of winter sports, like skiing, hockey, figure skating and the biathlon. After the Games were held in Sarajevo there was a marked increase in some of the “new” sporting disciplines, such as bob sled, luge and speed skating.

The infrastructure for the different sporting events remained as a legacy of the XIV WOG. In preparation for the events, kilometers of ski lanes were laid out for alpine skiing, plus there were cable cars, summer training areas, shooting ranges, ski jump facilities, bob sled and luge tracks, the Zetra Olympic Complex…. Winter sports centers were built on the mountains, complete with hotels, and an entirely new neighborhood was constructed right in town.

While this infrastructure was badly damaged during the war in the 1990s, much of it has been reconstructed.

As the number of tourists who visit the mountains around Sarajevo during the winter increases with every year, one could say that our city remains a favorite spot among winter sports lovers and is still considered a very attractive destination.