Squaw Valley considering name change

One of the nation’s most iconic ski resorts is considering a name change.

For 70 years, winter enthusiasts have flocked to Squaw Valley to ski its legendary runs, but in the wake of national protests around racial injustice, the resort’s name is being cast into the spotlight.

“We are currently in the process of setting up a plan to review the use of the term ‘Squaw’ as it relates to our business,” said Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows officials in a release. “As you likely know, the term is used by several area businesses as well as state and federal agencies for locations in the Olympic Valley region and these groups should be involved in the discussion.”

Squaw, according to Merriam-Webster, is a disparaging and offensive term for a Native American woman.

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows President and COO recently was interview by Sacramento-based station KCRA-TV on the topic of the resort’s name.

Cohen indicated that the valley received its name around the 1850s.

“The anecdotal stories are that they saw all of the (Native American) men were gone out hunting in the summer time and the (Native American) women and children were here in this beautiful valley at the meadow doing what they were doing,” said Cohen during the interview.

The valley itself, according the book “California Place Names: The Origin and Etymology of Current Geographic Names,” was renamed Olympic Valley in anticipation of the 1960 Winter Olympics.

Several years ago the resort engaged in discussions about changing the name, and now plans on inviting regional Native American leaders and scholars to a summit in order to provide guidance on the matter going forward.

Removing Squaw from the resort would be a timely and costly process, according to Cohen, as the name appears all over the mountain, on everything from stores and signage to employee name tags. Squaw is also used outside of the ski resort in the broader community with the name being for street signs, and on other items like license plate frames and stickers.

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, according to Director of Marketing Christine Hovarth, will release further details on the possible name change within the next two weeks.

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at or 530-550-2643.

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