Deneriaz, the 30th skier down the Olympic course, made it to the finish line in 1:48:80. Austria's Michael Walchhofer was second, .72 of a second behind.
That is a huge margin of victory in a sport where races are often determined by tiny fractions of a second. Not since 1968 had the Olympic downhill been won by such a time difference.
The bronze went to Switzerland's Bruno Kernen. Kjetil Andre Aamodt of Norway was fourth as he sought an eighth Olympic medal. Americans Bode Miller and Daron Rahlves were fifth and 10th, respectively.
Deneriaz, 29, has not won a World Cup race in more than two years. He had the fastest final training time Saturday, something skiers usually try to avoid. His fast training time forced Deneriaz to go last among the top flight of 30 skiers.
Skiing that late in the competition usually leaves a competitor with a bumpy course, but it was plenty smooth for Deneriaz.