The name change is the latest in a wave of rebranding of names which insult our Native American tribes, including renaming major sports teams.
The resort announced in 2020 to rename the destination, after extensive research into the historical and current usage and regional history of the word “squaw,” and discussions with the local Washoe Tribe, which affirmed the position that it is widely considered a racist and sexist slur against Indigenous women.
The Palisades Tahoe name captures and honors two of the resort’s most legendary arenas, one on the Olympic Valley side and one on the Alpine Meadows side, where granite walls rise all around and where generations of freeskiers made their mark.
Those are the features which made the former Squaw Valley an ideal spot for the Winter Games in 1960.
I am assuming that the small but fascinating Olympic Museum – with all its Squaw Valley memorabilia, including posters and news coverage – will remain. What it will be called we don’t know.
According to a press release from the newly renaned resort:
“Capturing this spirit of freedom, the new logo aligns the two unique mountains that make up Palisades Tahoe with the outline of a majestic eagle—a nod to the sacred Washoe symbol used to communicate with the heavens, the powerful bird that calls Tahoe home, and to the resort’s freeskiing roots.
The bold colors and interwoven design pay homage to these majestic mountains—past, present, and future—and the fierce allegiance and individuality of the Palisades Tahoe community.”
I don’t understand the use of the word “palisades”. By definition, that is a a defensive fence or wall made up of wooden stakes or tree trunks.
The one in New Amsterdam – before it became New York City – was used to protect settlers from the local tribes which didn’t want them on their land. That wall is now known as Wall Street.
A natural palisade is defined by the local NYC Lenape people as “rocks that look like rows of trees”, a phrase that became “Weehawken”. That’s the name of a town in New Jersey that sits at the top of the cliffs across from Midtown Manhattan. That granite cliff is known – officially – as The Palisades.
The former Squaw Valley and the former Alpine Meadows do not have such a wall of cliffs. Steep mountainous slope, yes. Wall of cliffs, no. Even without snow, the infamous K-22 is not a wall of tree-like granite. It is a steep mountain slope, but not a cliff.
One thing which does not change is that the new Palisades Tahoe is on the Ikon Pass, which offers access to 47 international ski destinations for one price.
But I digress.
Obviously, many people were involved in the name change and the logo design. According to the press release:
“The renaming process began last year with an in-depth research and discovery process that would be the first step in informing the new name. At the outset, the resort team dissected what elements of these neighboring valleys, from the mountains to the people, truly set them apart.
They looked at the history of the Washoe Tribe, whose ancestral lands were in Olympic Valley, to extreme ski movies that featured the resort, to the spectrum of feedback on the name change decision.
Next, the team carefully conducted numerous surveys—collecting more than 3,000 responses—and held focus groups in order to consult with a wide range of individuals in the community, including local residents, longtime pass holders, athletes who grew up on these slopes, employees of the resort, and members of the local Washoe tribe.
The central themes that emerged from the discovery process included the unique geography and one-of-a-kind terrain of these mountains, the deep Olympic and ski culture histories across both valleys, the resort’s ability to challenge all levels of skiers and riders, and the incredible strength and loyalty of the community.
With the name Palisades Tahoe, the resort honors the past—the arena that put Olympic Valley on the map, inspired countless skiers to push the limits, and created a culture unlike any other—and looks towards a new chapter.”
Beyond the name change, Palisades Tahoe has begun building a partnership with the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California to continue to give the tribe a platform to educate the public about their culture and the valleys’ origins as the ancestral land of the Washoe Tribe, and to ensure mountain accessibility for present and future Washoe generations.
During the summer of 2021, while the resort was still Squaw Valley, it launched the Washoe Cultural Tour series, offering guests a view of the mountains through the eyes of the Washoe people.
Darrel Cruz, Director of the Tribal Historic Preservation Office and Cultural Resources Office of the Washoe Tribe, shares stories of Washoe history and culture at the High Camp mid-mountain lodge. In addition, Palisades Tahoe will install a Washoe exhibit at High Camp, complete with tribal artifacts that show the Washoe way of life that members seek to preserve to this day.
The groups are also exploring future programming centered on making skiing more accessible to Washoe Tribe members.
New Palisades Tahoe Signage
It will take a couple of years for all the signs and names to be changed, incudling on the iconic Squaw Valley gondola.
Here’s what to expect if you visit the new Palisades Tahoe during the 2021/2022 ski season:
The base area village on the Olympic Valley side will now be known as The Village at Palisades Tahoe
The chairlifts known as Squaw One and Squaw Creek chairlifts will be renamed, with input by the Washoe Tribe, Resort at Squaw Creek, and the public.
Whether the Resort at Squaw Creek will change its name is not yet known.
Palisades Tahoe leaders continue to assist other local businesses who are interested in changing their names, and the Washoe Tribe is leading the efforts to rename Squaw Peak and Squaw Creek.
For more information on Palisades Tahoe and the upcoming winter season, please visit the Palisades Tahoe website.
About Palisades Tahoe
Palisades Tahoe is the largest ski resort in the Lake Tahoe region, boasting 6,000 skiable acres across two mountains.
Formerly Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, the more than 70-year-old resort celebrates a rich history as the host of the 1960 Winter Olympics, the Spring Skiing Capital, and home mountain to dozens of Olympic and World Cup athletes across multiple snow sports. With an average annual snowfall of 400 inches,
Palisades Tahoe frequently operates the longest ski and snowboard season in Lake Tahoe. The Village at Palisades Tahoe offers year-round events and over 50 bars, restaurants and boutiques, many of which are locally owned and operated. Palisades Tahoe is on the Ikon Pass, which offers access to 47 international ski destinations.