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Lila Lapanja Defends National Slalom Title at Sun Valley
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Lila Lapanja skis towards her second straight national slalom championship.
   
Monday, March 25, 2024
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

Margie Lapanja is ready to punch her ticket to the 2025 World Cup in Sun Valley, assuming Sun Valley gets to host a World Cup event as expected.

"My daughter's a Sun Valley babe," she said. "Four trips to Sun Valley for the National Championships and she's been on the podium four times."

Lila Lapanja, who skis for the U.S. Ski Team, made her last ski race of the 2023-24 season a good one Sunday, winning the U.S. Alpine Women's Slalom championship on Sun Valley's Hemingway and Greyhawk course. She weathered a flurry of snowflakes that greeted the final four skiers vying for the title to post a combined time of 1:46.07 and defend her slalom championship from the 2023 Alpine Championships in Sun Valley.

 
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Madison Hoffman shared the glory with Lila Lapanja and Zoe Zimmerman.
 

Madison Hoffman, who podiumed Saturday in the Women's Giant Slalom, tied Lapana in a thrilling conclusion with a combined time of 1:46.07, and U.S. Ski Team member Zoe Zimmerman from New Hampshire took third with a time of 1:46.42. Nineteen-year-old Elisabeth Babcock, who podiumed twice during the week, just missed out with a time of 1:46.70, even though she was one-hundredth of a second off 29-year-old Lapanja's time in the second race.

"It was a fun race," said Lapanja, whose father was a National Team skier for Slovenia and who skied slalom this year on the World Cup circuit. "Coming down, no one says anything so you wonder whether you did something wrong. Then, a big cheer goes up at the bottom. I love racing here because I get to share the podium with my friends--everybody wins. Now it's back to Tahoe for a little time with my family, maybe a little skiing with the local ski club, and treating myself with time in the outdoors, a little hiking, before I have to hit the skis again."

The Women's Slalom fielded more than 60 women, including Sun Valley skiers Jessica Blackburn and Lowie Watkins, who made it into the Top 30 after their first run. There were a couple of spills and a few impressive saves that drew gasps from spectators.

Paula Moltzan, a slalom specialist who won Saturday's giant slalom, missed a gate in the first of the two runs and did not finish.

 
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Matej Vidovic, Luke Winters and Camen Palmquist took the podium in the Men’s Slalom.
 

The Men's Slalom, which fielded 78 racers, started a few gates above the women's on Hemingway.

Six-year U.S. Ski Team member and Olympian Luke Winters, a Gresham, Ore., man who flies planes when he isn't flying down ski slopes, won the Men's Slalom, zig-zagging back and forth between a myriad of tightly set gates, poles clacking before charging across the finish line. He narrowly made it around the last gate for a combined time of 1:46.22.

Croation Olympian Matej Vidovic took second with a combined time of 1:46.65, and Minnesota's Camden Palmquist, who has been on the U.S. Ski Team three years, took a third with a combined time of 1:47.32.

Sun Valley's Ryder Sarchett wasn't far off third with a time of1:47.79, right behind six-year U.S. Ski Team veteran Isaiah Nelson and Stanley Buzek.

 
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Camden Palmquist entrusted his celebratory flowers to his skis while he soaked in congratulatory words from his teammates.
 

"It was turn-y and quick," said Palmquist.

Nelson's mother Jana was jazzed about her 23--year-old son's performance at this year's 2024 Toyota U.S. Alpine Championships. In addition to fourth in Slalom, he was third in the super-G and sixth in Giant Slalom.

"As a mother, you get butterflies but it's their race," said Nelson, who named her sons--all ski racers--Isaiah, Joshua and Samuel for men in the Bible. My son Josh would have been here, too, but he was injured. We love Sun Valley--this week has been very fun. Isaiah has been on the road a lot so to spend time off the road is so great. It keeps him grounded."

Sun Valley resident Pete Peter helped with the 2023 Alpine Championships at Sun Valley, wetting down the race course with hoses and sideslipping down the mountain after every fifth racer to minimize rutting. He watched it from the bottom this year.

 
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Lila Lapanja received plenty of hugs, in addition to flowers, medals and Idaho spuds for her slalom victory.
 

"They did a real good job preparing the hill--it's held up real well," he said, as he watched the men's slalom. I'm looking forward to seeing the World Cup next year--I just hope they can figure a way that those standing in the arena can watch the action on the Hemingway course--as it is, working the course is one of the best viewpoints.

Peter said his favorite race to watch is the giant slalom.

"It's a lot of speed and technique. The super-G on this hill is a test, too because this hill is so steep."

Kathleen Eder and MJ Loewy wrapped up posting the last of the race results Sunday afternoon after five days of inking them. But no rest for the weary. The FIS Demo races swing into Sun Valley Monday with four more days of racing.

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