Please note that the information included in this post contains sensitive and at times graphic information. The intent is to be transparent and educational. To avoid repeating a racial slur multiple times, we will refer to our former name, Squaw Valley, as ‘Sq**w’ throughout this series.
Renaming a business with 70 years of history is no easy task. It’s not something anyone here at the resort had experience in, and it’s not really something that there is a standard roadmap for. While we thought it would only take us a few months to rename, it took us nearly a year from when we announced our commitment. While time-consuming, we made it a priority to capture community opinion via surveys, working groups, and one-on-one interviews. Our goal was to determine what it is about these mountains that sets them apart and keeps people coming back, and how we might best reflect those thoughts and feelings in a new name. We took our time to make sure we were doing right by the community and keeping them at the heart of this decision.
How We Changed The Name: A Timeline
Our resort leadership had the final say on what the new name would be, but there were many people involved in the process along the way. We solicited community input and we hired a branding agency with experience in this field to help us take all of the history, culture, and emotion that came out of those community discussions and turn it into a name that best encapsulated what this place means to its most fervent fans.
|The Resort announces its commitment to change its name. Initial talks begin with just the Washoe Tribe, determining what level they want to be involved in the change.
|Resort management begins by interviewing community members. Resort marketing starts working with a creative agency to determine how we will position the new brand.
|Resort management goes through many rounds of name suggestions, eventually filtering down to a final group of 4-6 names to present to Alterra Mountain Company, the parent company of Palisades Tahoe.
|Though we had intentions to announce the new name in the Spring, we had not yet found the perfect name, so we went back to the drawing board with the creative agency, using all of the input from our local community, including athletes, employees, and pass holders. We developed another round of names to choose from.
|Having decided on the name of Palisades Tahoe, resort management and the marketing team set out to create a new logo and brand that would align with how we all view these remarkable mountains.
|Palisades Tahoe is announced as the resort’s new name. We also announced that we would be renaming two chairlifts that still used sq**w, one of which ended up taking the Washoe word for “the people,” Wa She Shu.
Where did the name Palisades Tahoe come from?
Our mountain is known for its terrain, so we decided to put some of our most iconic features front and center. A palisade is defined as a line of bold cliffs, and at the resort, there are two beloved terrain areas that are referred to as The Palisades. On the Olympic Valley/Palisades side, legendary granite walls rise on looker’s left of Siberia Express where generations of freeskiers made their mark in the legendary arena. The terrain with the same name alongside the historic Alpine Bowl Chair at Alpine is slightly more hidden, but also a proving ground for skiers and riders and a powder day favorite for those in the know.
Where did the Eagle logo come from?
Vital to both the history of Olympic Valley and the Washoe people, the Eagle is a legendary symbol of freedom that keeps watch over our valleys.
We added our two mountains in a way that can also be read as eagle feathers or the waters of Lake Tahoe.
The shapes reference the flat land and cliffs of the Palisades, while the wavelike forms exude the distinct vibes of California culture.
Why is an Eagle sacred to the Washoe?
Please note that all this information is written by the Washoe Tribe. You can read more about the Tribe in Part One, or you can download the Washoe Booklet for more information.
It is difficult to separate the sacred from the everyday life of the Washoe. The Washoe see every aspect of the environment as sentient beings that are deserving of respect and cooperation if humans are to survive. The Earth, its terrain, its waters, in short all the living and non-living things are considered to be sacred. The eagle itself is sacred, too. It has the power to represent many different things for different people, but always represents a conduit to the unseen and a source of power and freedom.
Traditions and beliefs described in the past tense in the following sections are still widely practiced and observed by the Washoe today.
Washoe legends tell of several creatures that have special powers and lived in the Washoe territory… There was a giant man-eating bird named Ong that nested in the middle of Lake Tahoe. Ong was so large and so powerful that his wing beats could bend the trees when he flew near shore.
The legend tells that one day a Washoe man was snatched up by Ong and taken to his nest. Luckily, the Washoe was not eaten right away because Ong had another person to eat. The Washoe watched the giant bird eat and noticed that it closed its eyes to chew. The Washoe got an idea. Every time the bird closed its eyes he threw several arrowheads into its open mouth. By nightfall Ong was very sick. A storm raged through the night, but by morning the monster was dead. The Washoe plucked out one of its massive feathers used it as a boat to reach the shore. The Washoe say that Ong’s nest remains in Lake Tahoe submerged out of sight.
What about the many local businesses that use “Sq**w” in their name? Will they be required to change names? What about road names, peak names, etc?
While we hope that the local businesses that use “sq**w” in their name will join us in this initiative, that decision is entirely theirs. We have offered assistance to those who want to change their names because of our decision.
Palisades Tahoe does not own the resort access roads, nor the naming rights to some of our peaks. Thankfully, Placer County has already changed two street names: Sq**w Valley Rd became Olympic Valley Rd., and Sq**w Peak Rd became Shirley Canyon Rd.
The Washoe Tribe also submitted requests to the US Geological Survey for name changes to Sq**w Peak and Sq**w Creek. As of September 2022, these have each been renamed as Washeshu Peak and Washeshu Creek.
Other area businesses such as The Resort at Sq**w Creek are working on name changes as well.
Why didn’t you use a Washoe name or word for the whole resort?
This is a great question that we get a lot. There was initially a lot of discussion about this, but in the end, the Washoe Tribe and our resort management agreed that it was not the right way to use the Washoe language. We do not want people mispronouncing or misusing Washoe words. The Washoe Tribe also does not receive any financial benefits from the resort, so using their language felt disingenuous. Plus, if the resort had to trademark or register any Washoe terms, this would be an issue. The resort does not claim ownership over any Washoe terms.
The Washoe Tribe would like to express that they feel the removal of the racist term from our former name was a victory, and they were satisfied by this act of friendship. The Tribe wanted to support any name the resort settled on.
Why didn’t you name the resort Olympic Valley?
The term “Olympic” is legally held by the International Olympic Committee, so this was never an option for us. Additionally, while the Olympics are an important part of resort history, we did not want our new name to be focused on the past.
Stay Tuned! Part Four of this series will cover the resort’s relationship with the Washoe Tribe today and what it will look like moving forward. Thank you for reading this series.