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Lila Lapanja

Lila Lapanja

Fun Facts
Name: Lila Lapanja
Date of Birth: December 3, 1994
Hometown: Incline Village, NV
Mountain: Diamond Peak
Sport: Slalom and Giant Slalom
Results: 2x North American Slalom Overall Champion
Hobbies: Hiking, Stand-Up Paddleboarding, Writing, Snow Leopard Trust Ambassador
Sponsors: Clifbar, Fischer, POC, Leki

Barton Athlete, Lila Lapanja slalom and giant slalom skier.

'Back On Top'

Lila Lapanja credits an injury with making her understand how much she truly loves ski racing.

The 23-year-old Incline Village local was forced out of the sport when a stubborn back injury flared up in 2014. As she sat on the couch watching her U.S. Ski Team teammates succeed, she knew she had to get back on the mountain.

“It was extremely depressing. But it had to happen. I saw skiing from a different perspective,” Lapanja said in an interview. “I was sick inside. Until that point, I didn’t realize how much I wanted to be a ski racer. Until I was sidelined, I didn’t have the same fire and intensity. I really saw what was missing in my life.”

Lapanja returned to the gates the following year, and has been injury-free for three consecutive seasons, all the while posting strong performances at various events and working toward goals of strong World Cup finishes and qualifying for the 2022 Olympics.

“I want to get back to the World Cup. I want to get some top 15 and top 30 results,” Lapanja said. “But what’s more important than the results and potential accolades is how I feel about the season and my skiing. That’s where it boils down to simplistic fundamentals: my balance, my line, my tactics.

“I want to find more flow in my skiing. I want to be confident in finding my speed and be consistent with that speed.” 

Lapanja was born and raised in Incline Village. She started skiing at Diamond Peak at 2 years old. Her dad, former Slovenian National Team skier Vojko Lapanja, coached her while she was on the mountain’s junior ski racing team. Early on, she stood out, hitting the podium often.

She took the top spot on the junior slalom circuit in 2011, finishing No. 1 in the USSA’s Western Region. She was called up to the U.S. Ski Team that same year.

Two seasons later, she won her first North American Cup slalom overall title. The following year, before she could hit the World Cup circuit, soreness in her lower back began to affect her racing.

Unlike typical skier knee injuries, it took months to figure out what the problem was, Lapanja said.

So she changed her training routine and developed a new regimen specific to her physique and needs. In the spring of 2017, Lila took her training routine to a new level with the help of Barton Health Physical Therapist Angie Hagenah, as well as Nick Ward, director of Barton Performance by ALTIS.

Since, Lapanja has been slowly building back her strength and agility, crediting the team at Barton for helping push her during the process.

“Angie’s talent lies in helping people optimize freedom of movement in their bodies. She has an amazing touch and feel for an individual’s needs. We have a great relationship,” Lapanja said in a follow-up interview this spring. “Angie oversees my day-to-day, week-to-week changes in movement and does immediate hands-on work so I can perform well during racing and training. She also educates me on how to replicate techniques on my own which I think is very important.”

Add that to the intense training regimen provided by Ward and the rest of the team at Barton Performance by ALTIS, and Lapanja said she learned more this past winter season about her body and her skiing than in the previous three years combined.

“Nick, Angie and the Barton Performance team are helping me grow as an athlete. They provide a structure in which I can create my ideal program,” she said. “I like that they are creating an atmosphere of professionalism and athletics — I believe every human is innately an athlete — and that is a main goal of the Barton Performance environment.”

The human element also works in Lapanja’s favor, Ward said, considering how rigorous the training programs can be at Barton Performance by ALTIS — and with that rigor comes a mandate that athletes need to buy in 100 percent, which can be challenging for many to embrace.

“The art of being brilliant is the ability to do the common things uncommonly well … and Lila fits that mold,” Ward said. “A lot of times, I have to remind athletes that this program is not easy, and not everything’s going to be bountiful and wonderful. That’s one of the big changes.”

However, Lapanja’s strong spirit and will to adapt to change has helped her strength and conditioning program progress over the past several months, he said. Further, Lapanja has really taken to the program’s three-tiered mantra: “Train Well, Eat Well, Restore Well.”

“We’re at a stage where we can comfortably review Lila at the end of the year and keep what’s worked well, move cautiously forward with some things that might work, and chuck things out that don’t work,” Ward said. “The key is to not get bored with consistency.”

Lapanja said her expectations were exceeded with how her program kept her injury-free, which was “an enormous win for me this season.”

“As a professional athlete, no program is ever perfectly ‘complete.’ My sport evolves and I change, so my program has to adapt,” she said. “As I gain more experience and my training (and body) changes — even sometimes within a single season — I need a program tailored individually to me and a team willing to step up. This team stepped up.”

In addition to the training center’s support, Lapanja has always counted her mom and dad among her closest colleagues.

Vojko is quick with race-day encouragement and coaching advice, she said, while her mom, Margie Lapanja, handles a lot of the logistics of racing, training and traveling.

“We’re a really tight family because it’s just my mom, dad and I,” Lila said. “We call ourselves the ‘Lapanja trifecta.’”

Though she travels much of the year, Lake Tahoe is never far from Lapanja’s mind. She likes to hike, paddleboard and just hang out at the lake in the offseason. The big blue body of water offers her a peace that other locations don’t, she said.

“It’s a comforting place for me,” Lapanja said. “It’s a sanctuary. I find my calmness being near the water. I can’t imagine my life without it. It’s a great place to come home to.”

After her recovery, Lapanja returned to ski racing’s world stage with a bang. Her first season back (2015-16), Lapanja stormed the NorAm circuit, claiming the overall title for the second time.

At the World Cup level, she finished in the top 30 at Austria’s Flachau, scoring her first points in only her third start. Bigger than the result was the affirmation the race awarded her.

“That was something I’ll never forget,” Lapanja said. “I remember just looking back up at the hill and thinking this is what I want to do with my life. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

And now, with the continued support of the team at Barton Health and Barton Performance by ALTIS, Lapanja said she sees plenty of future potential, not just for herself, but other athletes at Lake Tahoe.

“The biggest and most positive difference for me is the level of professionalism that Barton Performance strives to provide. There is skilled intention behind every action in building the best programs for clients,” she said this spring. “I believe their system will be successful in a sport community powerhouse like Tahoe. We all love the same sports, same activities, but we are all different. Barton Performance by ALTIS cultivates and encourages that individualism while giving you a team you trust to keep you active, motivated and injury-free.

By Dylan Silver. Sierra Nevada Media Group Editor Kevin MacMillan contributed to this story.