Tahoe’s Lapanja wins giant slalom for her second national championship in two days

American alpine skier Lila Lapanja makes turns on the second run of the Women’s Giant Slalom National Championship at Aspen Highlands on Thursday, April 15, 2021. Lapanja won the overall national championship title. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Two days, two wins for Lila Lapanja. The Lake Tahoe ski racer finished atop the women’s giant slalom podium on Thursday to win her second national title in as many days at the U.S. Alpine Championships at Aspen Highlands.

The 26-year-old, who is a former U.S. ski team athlete who now competes independently, also won the alpine combined title, which wrapped up Wednesday. And, for the second straight day, she had to hold off former University of Denver athlete Storm Klomhaus, who again finished second, 0.04 seconds back of Lapanja. New York’s Tricia Mangan was third, 0.20 back of first.

“Today was definitely a tactical day. It paid to just have good skiing … it was not easy,” said Lapanja, who finished the GS race with a two-run combined time of 2 minutes, 44.22 seconds. “It was probably the longest course that I’ve ever raced, and I think the slip and race crew did a phenomenal job keeping the conditions really good. We had a really hard surface in the morning, and the salt took pretty well for the second run.”

Lapanja wasn’t even in the top 10 after the first run, but was the fastest in the second run and was able to make the leap to the top of the podium.

Held roughly three weeks later than normal, the spring weather continued to make racing difficult at U.S. nationals. Only 28 athletes finished both GS runs on Thursday, with 14 recording DNFs.

“When I was inspecting the second run, I just thought, ‘OK, just ski smart, focus on some really simple technical things, and don’t panic … don’t try to fight the length of the course, don’t try to fight the conditions, because it’s going to win today if you do,” Lapanja said. “It was just that long and that tough of a course.”

Only one race remains in the two-week long national championship event, that being Friday’s women’s slalom.

The race will also be a celebration for Jackson, Wyoming, native Resi Stiegler, as the 35-year-old World Cup veteran plans to officially retire after this season. She joins Oregon’s Laurenne Ross and New Castle’s Alice McKennis Duran in using this week’s nationals at Highlands as their retirement send off.