By now you’ve probably heard the news: Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows has changed its name to Palisades Tahoe.
The change has been long in the making. Was it a good move? Yes, without a doubt. The name “Squaw” is a twofer on the offensive scale: it’s both racist and misogynistic, Really, it’s amazing it stuck around as long as it did. For decades, the Washoe Tribe, who’ve been living in the Tahoe area forever, has lobbied the resort to make a change. Maybe that, combined with conversations generated by the Black Lives Matter and MeToo movements, finally had an effect. I’m sure the resort held countless focus groups and worked long hours before deciding to make a change. These things cost a fortune to implement, so you can bet it wasn’t entered into lightly.
As expected, reaction has been mixed. People are either heralding it as a change that’s long overdue, or bemoaning it as “caving into the Wokes” or “only done to appease the crybabies” (I’ve seen both of these on Facebook).
As you can tell, I’m in the first camp. And if you’re in the second, I’m sure nothing I can say will change your mind. Still, consider this: Think about the worst name you’ve ever been called — something you absolutely hated — and then think about having to face that every damned day, no matter what you do. That’s what the name Squaw must be like to some people. And that’s enough of a reason to change it.
Like it or not, what we call each other matters. It can reflect our perceptions and values, and it can perpetrate negative stereotypes with a single word. In this case, Squaw has long been perceived as a term that’s both racist and sexist. So why not get rid of it.
To be honest, I’m not in love with the name Palisades Tahoe. Maybe because I grew up in New Jersey, but to me it conjures up images of the Palisades along the Hudson River. Or the long-defunct Palisades Amusement Park, which used to run ads constantly on the radio when I was a child. Resort officials say the name was inspired by the sheer granite faces and chutes on the mountain. These have inspired generations of skiers and appeared in umpteen ski movies, from Warren Miller films to “The Blizzard of Aahhhs.”
My guess is that a year from now it’ll just be another part of ski culture and we won’t even give it a second thought. That’s generally how these things go, and I suspect it’s why the name Squaw stuck around as long as it did.
Now if we could just get rid of the term Ski Bunny.