The Vuarnet and Bonlieu Families

Metal Skis, Bar Fights, Cults, Suicides, and Sunglasses

Category Data
Full Name Jean Raoul Célina André Vuarnet
Used Name Jean Vuarnet
Born 18 January 1938; Bardo (TUN)
Affiliations Skiclub de Morzine
Year-Season Sport Event Finish Medal
1960 Winter Alpine Skiing Downhill 1 Gold
Category Data
Full name François Bonlieu
Born 21 March 1937; Juvincourt-et-Damary; Aisne (FRA)
Died 18 August 1973; Cannes; Alpes-Maritimes (FRA)
Affiliations CR Mont Blanc
Year-Season Sport Event Finish Medal
1956 Winter Alpine Skiing Giant Slalom 9
1960 Winter Alpine Skiing Giant Slalom 11
Slalom DQ Run 2/2
1964 Winter Alpine Skiing Downhill 15
Giant Slalom 1 Gold
Slalom DQ Run 1/2
Category Data
Full Name Marie Edith Bonlieu (-Vuarnet)
Used Name Edith Bonlieu
Born 18 September 1934
Died 22 December 1995; Vercors; Isère (FRA)
Year-Season Sport Event Finish Medal
1956 Winter Alpine Skiing Downhill DNF

The Vuarnet family has known the best of times and the worst of times. Jean Vuarnet first featured internationally when he won a bronze medal in the downhill at the 1958 World Championships. He was a pioneer downhiller, as he was really the first to use a deep tucked position, emphasizing its aerodynamic advantages. In 1960, he used the position to win the gold medal in the downhill at Squaw Valley, the only Olympic event in which he competed. Vuarnet also skied that year on Rossignol metal skis, and was the first skier to win a major championship using metal skis.

Jean Vuarnet

After the Olympics, Vuarnet endorsed a brand of sunglasses that took his name, and Vuarnet Sunglasses later became among the world’s most popular brands. He also spent time as a sports administrator with the French Skiing Association from 1962-71.

In 1958, Vuarnet had married Edith Bonlieu, who competed at the 1956 Olympics. Her brother was François Bonlieu, who had a much more extensive Olympic ski career than either his sister or Vuarnet. François Bonlieu competed at the 1956, 1960 and 1964 Winter Olympics, competing in 6 events and winning the gold medal in giant slalom at the 1964 Innsbruck Olympics.

François Bonlieu became a member of the French ski team when he was only 15 years old. In 1954, when only 17, he won a silver medal in the giant slalom at the World Championships in Aare. In 1958, Bonlieu added a World bronze medal at the championships in Bad Gastein, Austria. He was also a two-time slalom winner at the Arlberg-Kandahar, in 1959 and 1963, and was a three-time French national champion. François Bonlieu eventually was killed in a fight in Cannes on the Promenade de la Croisette, after an argument, at only 36-years-old.

Edith Bonlieu-Vuarnet was a three-time French champion. She competed in the downhill at the 1956 Winter Olympics, but did not finish the race. Bonlieu-Vuarnet and their youngest son, Patrick, later joined the Order of the Solar Temple cult, known in France as the Ordre du Temple Solaire. The Order of the Solar Temple was founded in 1984 by Joseph Di Mambro and Luc Jouret in Genève, Switzerland. The goals of the order were to establish the correct notions of authority and power in the world, affirm the primacy of the spiritual over the temporal, prepare for the Second Coming of Christ as a solar god-king, and assist in the unification of all Christian churches and Islam.

In 1994-95, the cult carried out mass suicides in several Swiss and French villages. The bodies were found in mass graves, dressed in ceremonial robes, lying in a circle, feet at the center, with plastic bags over their heads, and bullet wounds to the heads. Edith Bonlieu-Vuarnet and her son, Patrick Vuarnet, were among those who took their own lives.

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