In the famous animated TV show "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," Yukon Cornelius searched the ice and snow for silver and gold. His trusty nose always knew when he'd struck pay dirt. Since the Winter Olympics began in 1924, athletes from these games have learned that gold can indeed come from snow and ice.
Here's a look at some of the athletes who have enjoyed continuing fame and commercial success thanks to the winter games. The old prospector would be proud of them.
—By James Buckley Jr., Special to CNBC.com
Gold Medals: 1928, 1932, 1936
The glamorous and ambitious Norwegian beauty started it all. She took her three golds (and 10 straight world championships) to Hollywood, where she became a huge film star. She was also the first Olympic champion to create the traveling ice shows that many future skating stars would use to extend their Olympic success.
Gold Medals: 1948, 1952
The first American to win gold in figure skating, Button parlayed his Olympic success into becoming probably the most visible person in his sport. After touring with Ice Capades and others, he turned to TV work and was a fixture at every major international event for decades. Millions of Americans learned about Salchows, camels and Lutzes from Dick Button.
Silver Medal: 1964 (slalom)
Success after the Games doesn't always mean getting your face on TV. In the case of Kidd, the gunslinger-named athlete who was the first American to medal in skiing, he used his Olympic success to create a decades-long success story inside the skiing world.
From his base at Steamboat Springs, Colo., Kidd has stayed in the spotlight and on the slopes as a spokesman for the resort, an endorser of ski products and a snowbound legend.
Gold Medal: 1968
Fleming was part of a string of "America's sweethearts" who won Olympic gold. Her All-American looks and personality helped her land a continuing role in the marketplace. It began with TV specials that led to numerous guest roles, usually as herself. In the 1980s she was the face of Trident gum.
Today she is a motivational speaker and successful businesswoman famous as much for being herself as for her illustrious skating career.
Gold Medal: 1980
The captain of the "Miracle on Ice" team that defeated the Soviet Union in what most polls called the greatest sports moment of the 20th century, Eruzione has never stopped talking about that game. Though he has also worked in broadcasting and is now director of special outreach for his alma mater, Boston University, he is a powerful motivational speaker that relies on his Olympic story to make thousands of lucrative presentations.
Finding gold in the ice doesn't always mean hawking someone else's product.
Gold Medals: 1984, 1988
Not only Americans cash in on Olympic gold, of course. Though she skated for Communist East Germany, the stunning Katarina Witt found big success in the U.S. She kicked it off with a very successful ice-show tour and later won an Emmy for her acting (and skating) in the TV movie "Carmen on Ice."
Her beauty led to numerous print and TV ads in the U.S. and Germany, capped off with a layout in Playboy that flew off the shelves. She turned to acting and continues to be a regular face on German TV and movies.
Gold Medals: 2006, 2010 (snowboard halfpipe)
With the loss of skier Lindsey Vonn to injury, White probably will be the "face" of the U.S. team at Sochi. It's a position he's used to, having leaped to the top ranks of popular winter stars with a breakout gold at the 2006 Games. The endorsements started piling on then and haven't stopped. His 2010 gold kept the train rolling.
Today he juggles deals with Target, Red Bull, Oakley and GoPro, among others, while performing with his rock band and designing ski and snowboard clothes. Few Winter Games athletes have enjoyed as much success off the snow as this "Flying Tomato"-turned-conglomerate.
Gold Medals: 2002 (1500 m), 2006 (500 m), plus 2 silvers and 4 bronzes
Handsome, successful and blessed with a memorable name, Ohno became one of the most decorated American male Olympians ever. He has turned that into a multimedia career, working with companies like Subway, McDonald's, General Electric and Coca-Cola. TV viewers might also know him as the winner of the fourth season of "Dancing with the Stars." He'll be part of NBC's broadcast team in Sochi, too.
Gold Medal: 2010 (downhill, plus bronze in Super G)
A knee injury has slowed Vonn's hopes of continuing what had been one of the most successful winter sports stories in U.S. history—she'll miss the action in Sochi. After becoming the first U.S. woman to win the World Cup in 2008 (she repeated in 2009 and 2010), she captured Olympic gold in the downhill in Vancouver in 2010. Her cover-girl looks and outgoing personality caught the eye of sponsors, and she's been showered with deals, from Under Armour and Head to Oakley and Rolex.
She's made headlines for her eye-catching appearance in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, as well as her relationship with golfer Tiger Woods. Even without the spotlight of the Sochi Games, Vonn plans to continue to enjoy golden success off the slopes.