Tahoe skier Lila Lapanja on World Cup: ‘Smiling is my antidote to negativity’ | SierraSun.com

Tahoe skier Lila Lapanja on World Cup: ‘Smiling is my antidote to negativity’

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Professional ski racer Lila Lapanja recently competed with several of the world's best female athletes at the Audi FIS World Cup competition at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows.

Lapanja, an Incline Village native, competed in the March 11 slalom race and recorded a DNF (did not finish) on her first run.

"As much as I wanted to finish fast and give the crowd a big reason to cheer … I was happy about my preparation and my mentality in the race," Lapanja said.

Lapanja said she really likes performing in front of a big crowd — and as the sole local athlete racing for in the World Cup right here at North Lake Tahoe, she absolutely gave the crowd a reason to cheer.

Last week, the Bonanza caught up with this world-class athlete to hear the 23-year-old's final thoughts on getting to compete on her stomping grounds.

"I felt like a Hollywood actress or superstar singer," Lapanja said. "The atmosphere was buzzing with enthusiasm and passion — people were ecstatic about the race, and a local athlete competing on the world's biggest ski racing stage is an honor for everyone, not only me.

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"Sharing this experience with the people who have watched me grow up and families in the ski racing community with aspiring athletes is a special way to give back."

There's no doubt Lapanja's positive and uplifting attitude has much to do with her success in the ski industry. She joined the U.S. Ski Team in 2011 and her dream is to make it to the Olympics.

Over the years, she's won national titles and overcame an injury, gaining experience and strength to propel her to where she is today.

Her views on her performance at Squaw Valley were selfless and empowering, sharing her glory with the community from which she hails and leaving some important tips to the next generation of ski racers — especially young girls who look up to her.

"Your success comes from your perseverance," she said. "We ski race because we love it and love the challenge. Stick with the sport as long as you can, keep looking for speed and keep believing that your personal best skiing is possible (hint: it is)."

Her wise closing remarks illustrate her strength of character in addition to her strength of skill.

"Remember to smile," she said. "Smiling is my antidote to negativity."

Cassandra Walker is a features and entertainment reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at cwalker@sierrasun.com, 530-550-2654 or @snow1cass.

Fun facts

Lila Lapanja is a remarkable Tahoe-born athlete who holds dual citizenship with Slovenia. She is fluent in both English and Slovene and is working on her German.

Lapanja learned to ski from her father, Vojko — who also happens to be a former Slovenian National Team skier — and honed her skills on the Diamond Peak and Sugar Bowl ski teams before her current spot on the U.S. Ski Team.

Discipline: Alpine Ski Racing

Honors: 2014 NorAm Slalom win, named to 2015 World Championship team, but had to forfeit spot to heal an injury.

Hometown: Incline Village

Birthday: Dec. 3, 1994

Favorite Animal: Snow Leopard

Learn more: usskiteam.com/athletes/lila-lapanja