We’re excited to announce a new partnership with up and coming US Ski Team racer Lila Lapanja! Lila will serve as an ambassador for the endangered snow leopard and the conservation work we’re doing to save it in this upcoming season and beyond!
Lila is among the most promising young ski racers in America. A member of US Ski Team since 2011, her star has risen steadily in the last years. In 2014, she won the NorAm slalom title and grabbed a bronze medal in the same discipline at the National Championships. A back injury forced her to sit out most of last season, but now Lila has big plans for her comeback this coming winter.
As Lila attacks the slopes, she’ll be representing the Snow Leopard Trust and the magnificent cat our work is dedicated to – wearing a Team Snow Leopard patch, and sharing stories about the cats with her fans around the world.
Before she heads off to some distant glacier to train, we wanted to take the opportunity to introduce our new ambassador to you!
Q: Lila, how did you first find out about the snow leopard?
I became fascinated with big cats at a young age. I believe people have a spirit animal that finds them, and the snow leopard found me. I was twelve years old when I discovered the Snow Leopard Trust – they were selling a painting of a snow leopard and they sold me the final print! The picture became my shrine.
Q: What would you like to achieve as an ambassador for this cat and the Snow Leopard Trust?
I want to show people how magnificent this animal is: snow leopards are a very powerful symbol of beauty and strength. Protecting snow leopards is protecting the culture of our planet. The more our awareness expands, the more we can see the affect nature has in our world and why sharing resources equally is important.
Q: What about the snow leopard inspires you particularly?
Movement. I love the grace, beauty and suppleness in the movement of snow leopards. They move effortlessly over extreme terrain, using instinct to achieve perfect balance. I am a skier who goes as fast as possible down a hill with the ultimate goal of moving like a snow leopard. I think as humans we all have this capability to trust ourselves and move with grace.
Q: Give us a sense of what goes into being a professional skier… what does a year in the life of Lila Lapanja look like?
I will spend a month of active rest in the spring to recharge after a full season. The summer is my preparation season: I work on optimizing my strength training for next race season (which begins in October/November) and will have at least two on-snow camps so I can continue to improve my skills. When racing season begins, my focus turns toward the goals I have set. I finalize my training and equipment and race with the intention of having fun, going fast and doing my best from moment-to-moment.
Q: Who are your role models in the world of skiing and elsewhere?
Many athletes who ski race have something specific that I admire – Bode Miller (USA), Tina Maze (SLO), Marlies Schild (AUT) and Felix Neureuther (GER) are a few of my favorite athletes. Elsewhere I look up to individuals who inspire me and make me happy. Role models come in many different forms.
Q: As a skier, you travel the world – have you had a chance to go to the snow leopard’s habitat yet?
Not yet! The next Olympics will be in South Korea in 2018 – still very far from the remote regions in central Asia. I am hoping that through my partnership with SLT I will have the opportunity to visit snow leopard habitat and meet the local communities that help keep them protected.
Q: Where can we cheer you on? What are some good races to experience in person or watch on TV?
This upcoming year will be a comeback year for me because I had a small back injury last season, so my plan is to race in the North American Cups and then transition to bigger races in Europe, including the World Cup! A full schedule can be seen on the FIS website, but races have not been posted yet for the 2015-16 season. The professional ski racing circuit happens mostly in Europe. However Aspen and Beaver Creek, Colorado host the American World Cups at the end of November and beginning of December. These are very exciting races to watch! If you are new to ski racing, Universal Sports Network airs World Cup races on T.V. and online. If you happen to be in Colorado in November, I will be racing too!
Q: What are your big career goals?
My big career goals have been the same since I began racing at age six: Win World Cups and medal at the World Championships and Olympics. However my ultimate career goal is to play at the highest level of ski racing: to master my skiing, achieve personal excellence and inspire people to do the same. I believe this is where I will find the most happiness and success.
Good luck, and may the snow leopard’s spirit guide you to lots of victories!