By Leena Shah
One of the reasons I like living in Tahoe is because it is a community, not just a big city. People know each other and have a shared set of values. One of those values is equality — everyone is treated the same and given equal opportunities. My goal with this piece is to bring public attention to an issue that occurred last year, when this did not happen. Our shared value of equality was instead turned into a public display of inequality, which seems to be systemic at Palisades Tahoe.
My daughter and I moved to Tahoe three years ago; a big reason we relocated was because of her love of skiing. Once we arrived, my daughter started attending Creekside Charter School and the mid-week Mighty Mites skiing program. She progressed quickly through their star system, but I struggled with the communication received from the program. I provided feedback to Palisades about the assessment process, and especially the poor communication for the mid-week program, but there was little response and no change.
My nine-year-old daughter seemed to be a talented skier, and not just to me as a proud mother, but to others with good knowledge about skiing. My daughter and I both wanted to see her move up to the junior development team (race team), but were told this required the skier to be at Blue Star level (my daughter and her teammate both ended the season as Purple Stars).
Purple Star kids interested in the race team can attend the post-season race camps with management approval, which I obtained. After attending a race camp, my daughter went to Aspen where she competed in the NASTAR championships. She won gold, in addition to attending race clinics with amazing coaches, who advised me that she was ready for race team.
Based on that advice, I made a further request to have her put in Palisades Junior Development and received a response that was emphatically no, Blue Stars only. However, I then discovered that my daughter’s teammate in Purple Stars had been put in junior development for the season. After numerous communications with various staff they conducted an investigation (due to a formal complaint that I filed), and then after many months of emails, phone calls, and a recent face-to-face meeting, they finally concluded that “mistakes were made” and they are “committed to changing the processes to ensure accountability.” As part of the ski resort’s commitment to resolving these mistakes, Palisades invited my daughter to the summer race camp in June to help her catch up with what she missed this season by not being permitted to be part of Junior Development, and offered to comp her race season fees next season.
My daughter is one of significantly few non-White skiers. I teach her that achievement comes from hard work rather than from who you know, so I believe it is important to raise these issues in the public sphere. Large companies like Palisades need to drive equality and diversity in our community and in the sport of skiing, especially since skiing can easily be seen as a White pastime akin to the old boys clubs of golf or tennis. It is critical that our community’s values about equality are represented and upheld. Hopefully, my communications with Palisades have made them more aware of how this issue might look to the community and, most importantly, to the parents of athletes. I am hopeful that things will improve, but parents and guests alike need to speak up if you see issues in how processes are being followed and how this affects you or your athletes. Let’s all hold each other accountable to be better.
~ Leena Shah is a communications and training professional who moved to the U.S. from the U.K. 23 years ago. She and her daughter have a huge passion for travelling the globe and discovering new countries and cultures. They live in Carnelian Bay with their rescue doggie, Sadie.