“On the top of the mountain, we are all snow leopards” is one of Snow Leopard Trust Ambassador, Lila Lapanja’s, favorite quotes from the late Hunter S. Thompson. As a competitive ski racer and snow leopard advocate, she lives and breathes it every day.
Lila became mesmerized with snow leopards when she first learned about the species at age 13. While surfing the web to learn more ways to help animals, she stumbled upon the Snow Leopard Trust website where she was struck by a beautiful painting of the cat. She became fixated on the painting and purchased the last print in stock from our headquarters. Since then, she has been on a mission to get involved, represent, and protect this endangered cat.
As a cat lover and mountain enthusiast, Lila connected to snow leopards right away. Lila has been ski racing since she was a child and joined the US Ski Team in 2011. She has now been skiing independently for the past 3 years, but is still on the World Cup Circuit and is an Olympic hopeful for Beijing 2022. Lila also makes it a priority to represent snow leopards and the Snow Leopard Trust no matter where she’s racing.
Lila spreads awareness about the Trust by word of mouth during her travels around the world. She does her own fundraising to support her racing, and donates a portion of her funds to the Trust. In the past she has headed up campaigns to sell tote bags and donate the proceeds to protect snow leopards. And she always has a piece of snow leopard print somewhere on her race gear. Lila works with a startup company out of Lake Tahoe, called Peace Is, that creates custom neck gators. These neck gators have become an integral part of Lila’s race gear. She feels she is championing the species every time she wears a faux print, especially on the slopes.
Lila’s journey as a competitive skier hasn’t always been an easy one. In 2015, she suffered a back injury that took her out for the remainder of the season. Being restricted physically, she decided to pour more of her energy into her involvement with the Snow Leopard Trust. Throughout her road to recovery she took inspiration from snow leopards not only for their resilience, but for their physical prowess as well. The way they move, their strength and agility, the way they preserve their energy for an attack—these are all lessons she takes with her as she prepares for a race. She came back in 2016 stronger than ever, scoring her first World Cup points in Flachau, Austria. There, she became one of only 30 top athletes in the world to participate in a second race, scoring 21st on her first run, and 23rd overall.
Lila is excited to continue her involvement with the Trust, spreading our mission across the globe as she travels to her ski races. She hopes to visit snow leopard range countries some time in the near future. (Some of which happen to be world class ski destinations!) Lila has big dreams and hopes to one day write a million dollar check to the Trust to help save snow leopards. We are very honored to have Lila as an ambassador of the Snow Leopard Trust.
Lila still has a few big races and events this season. You can follow along with her adventures and her skiing at www.lilalapanja.com
Good luck, Lila!