Henri Oreiller (5 December 1925 – 7 October 1962) was an alpine ski racer and Olympic gold medalist from France. He won two gold medals and a bronze at the 1948 Winter Olympics, becoming the most successful athlete those Games in St. Moritz, Switzerland.[1]

Henri Oreiller
Alpine skier
Henri Oreiller 1948.jpg
An illustration of Henri Oreiller, ca. 1948
Disciplinesdownhill, Giant Slalom,
Slalom, Combined
Born(1925-12-05)5 December 1925
Paris, France
Died7 October 1962(1962-10-07) (aged 36)
Paris, France
Retired1952 (age 26)
Teams2 – (1948, 1952)
Medals3 (2 gold)
World Championships
Teams3 – (1948, 1950, 1952)
    includes Olympics
Medals3 (2 gold)

Born in Paris, the son of Léon Oreiller, of Italian origin, and Marguerite Favre, from Savoie. His parents lived in Paris and frequented Val d'Isère for holidays. Oreiller was a member of Section Eclairuers Skieurs, a specialist skiing section of the French Resistance during World War II. After the liberation of Paris he fought in the Alps in an elite winter combat unit of the French Army.[1]

Nicknamed the "Parisian of Val d'Isère" or the "madman of downhill", he was the first Olympic downhill champion in 1948 at St. Moritz, with a record margin of four seconds over the runner-up. He also took the gold medal in the combined event, and the bronze medal in the special slalom. He missed one of his medal ceremonies because he was playing accordion in a local bar, and received his medal a week later.[1]

He competed in the 1950 World Championships at Aspen and finished fourth in the new event, the giant slalom. At the 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo, Oreiller was 14th in the downhill and 16th in the giant slalom.[1]

Obsessed with speed, Oreiller retired from ski racing in 1952 at age 26 to take up motor racing. Ten years later, he had a racing car accident which took his life on 7 October 1962. A tire blowout at 100 mph (160 km/h) caused his Ferrari to flip at the Linas-Montlhéry autodrome and he later died at Hôpital Cochin in Paris.[2] The Ferrari 250 GTO, in which he lost his life, sold at auction for a world record $38.1million (£22.85 million), in August 2014.[3] At his shrine at Val d'Isère, where he rests next to his wife, testimonies from around the world bear witness to his abilities.



  • Winner of the Harriman Cup in 1949 in Sun Valley in the U.S., in downhill, slalom, and combined.[4][5]
  • Champion of France in special slalom in 1947.

Motor racingEdit

  • Champion of France in "touring" category in 1959.
  • Tour de France 1959, winner on points.
  • Lyon-Carbonniere Rallye in 1960 and 1961.


  1. ^ a b c d Henri Oreiller Archived 28 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine. Sports Reference
  2. ^ "Race driver dies in French crash". Wilmington (NC) Morning Star. UPI. 8 October 1962. p. 10.
  3. ^ "Classic Ferrari once involved in fatal accident becomes most expensive car ever after selling for $38.1 Million". Daily Mail. Mail Online. 15 August 2014. Retrieved 22 August 2014.
  4. ^ "French ski aces garner Harriman Cups by sweeping slalom events". Deseret News. INS. 28 March 1949. p. B-2.
  5. ^ "French skiers win Harriman Cup races". Lewiston Daily Sun. UPI. 28 March 1949. p. 8.

External linksEdit