Lila Lapanja had just finished her first driving lesson at age sixteen when she got the call from the U.S. Ski Team in the spring of 2011. "I was so excited. I've been working so hard…it's just one step closer to my dream of being an Olympic ski racer," said Lapanja, who learned of her nomination at the summit of a mountain highway in the Sierra Nevada.
She rode that momentum into a remarkable junior career, finishing sixth in the Junior Worlds slalom, winning back-to-back U.S. Junior combined titles, and landing on the podium at the U.S Nationals with a bronze overall and Junior title in slalom. In 2014, Lapanja claimed the NorAm Slalom title and secured her spot on the World Cup as a tech stand-out and NorAm champion. However, 2015 proved to be the most challenging season of her young career as she struggled with an injury: after being named to the 2015 World Championship Team, Lapanja made “the hardest decision of my life” and forfeited her slalom spot so she could heal and regenerate for the rest of the season.
But Lila fought back with grit, grace, and determination. Both on and off the hill, Lapanja emanates a balance of intensity, hard work, devotion, focus and a little bit of mystery—it’s what makes her unique and a champion. That intensity is what fueled her as she scored her career first Audi FIS Ski World Cup points in Flachau in 2016 in just her third World Cup start. She harnessed that momentum again with a stand-out first run in the Crans Montana WC slalom (going from 43rd to 17th) and wrapped up the season by reclaiming her NorAm Slalom title and mining silver in slalom at the U.S. Alpine Championships in Sun Valley. Comeback complete!
Now Lapanja will take her pursuit of excellence and signature snow leopard power into 2017-18 with her sights on scoring top results on the World Cup circuit—which she says “feels like home”. Destination: PyeongChang 2018.
U.S. born, but with dual citizenship with Slovenia, Lapanja inherited her love for skiing from dad and former Slovenian National Team skier Vojko Lapanja. When Lila was two, her parents took her to the bunny hill on Easter, strapped on some skis and set her off to chase after prize Easter eggs. With her “Ati” as her coach, she learned to ski and race at Diamond Peak in Nevada and rapidly climbed the junior ranks before racing for one year for the Sugar Bowl Ski Team and being called up to the U.S. Ski Team in 2011.
OFF THE SNOW
In addition to her love for ski racing and sports—she also has a varsity letter in tennis, played very successfully in club soccer and will challenge anyone in ping-pong or sprints—Lapanja’s other great passions include animals, nature, the environment and travel and languages.
In 2015, Lapanja was named as an ambassador for the Snow Leopard Trust and is dedicated to increasing awareness of this magnificent creature and favorite animal. Lila shares, “I think it is very important to understand the lives of animals and find ways to preserve their habitat and appreciate their beauty. I love animals. Growing up at Tahoe has been a blessing because of the close connection with nature. I use my home in Tahoe as a refueling station and love being outside in nature—I believe that the Lake has magic powers. I also love traveling, exploring and learning about other cultures and people and have started writing poetry about my experiences. Since I grew up speaking Slovene with my father and my family in Slovenia, I am very interested in languages and am almost fluent in Slovene and German too!"
- Diamond Peak Ski Team/Sugar Bowl Ski Academy
WORLD CUP HIGHLIGHTS
23rd, SL, Flachau, AUT, 2016
First World Cup points scored in only three starts
3rd, SL, Sugarloaf, ME, 2017
2nd, SL, Sun Valley, ID, 2016
3rd, SL, Squaw Valley, CO, 2014 (Junior SL Champion)
Back-to-back U.S. Junior combined champion, 2012 and 2013
FIS JUNIOR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Teams: 2013, 2014
6th, SL, Jasna, SVK, 2014
15th, SL, Mont St. Anne, CAN, 2013 (Top American in SL and GS)
NorAm Slalom Champion, 2014 and 2016
Ranked 4th, NorAm Overall, 2016
Western Region Overall and Jr. Slalom Champion, 2011