Yosemite National Park Gets Its Names Back

17 Jul

The last time you were in Yosemite, you may have noticed that many of the classic hotels and restaurants had new names—there were tarps over the entrance signs to the Ahwahnee and the Wawona hotels, assigning odd monikers like “The Majestic” and “Big Trees” in their stead. This three-and-a-half-year identity crisis was due to a trademark dispute between Yosemite’s former concessionaire, Delaware North, on one side and the new concessionaire, Aramark, and the National Park Service on the other.

Delaware North had, during the decades that it held the contract as the Park’s concessionaire, quietly trademarked many of Yosemite’s most famous names, including the Ahwahnee Hotel, Curry Village, the Wawona Hotel, and Badger Pass ski Area. They even trademarked the name Yosemite National Park and since 2016, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, park products like hats and coffee mugs have read simply: Yosemite. When Delaware North’s contract expired in 2015, they wanted $51 million for their alleged intellectual property. 

In a $12 million settlement announced Monday, Yosemite National Park got the right to use the original names of some of its most iconic hotels and attractions, many of which, it’s worth noting, were derived from native Miwok names, the tribe that was indigenous to the area. Effective July 15, all trademarks and service marks transfer from Delaware North to Aramark. The National Park Service can also return to using hundreds of other trademarked monikers and phrases, including the classic “Go Climb a Rock” slogan that’s graced tens of thousands of T-shirts bought at the Yosemite Mountaineering School and the Half Dome logo.

And under Aramark’s contract with the National Park Service, those trademarks and service marks will transfer (at no cost) back to the National Park Service once Aramark’s contract ends. The settlement to Delaware North includes $3.84 million paid from the U.S. government. The rest of the money comes from Aramark. 

“Some people ask why the government got involved and paid the money,” says Scott Gediman, the park’s spokesman. “My answer is that the lawsuit was active for three-and-a-half years and the attorneys on both sides realized it was time to settle. It is not a small sum of money, but it could have dragged on for years with no resolution.” 

Word of the settlement spread quickly in the park. “I’ve been with Yosemite for 23 years, and I’ve never seen such jubilation,” says Gediman. “People were clapping and in tears—there was a very emotional reaction. I knew our staff and guests would be excited, but had no idea how incredibly moving the reaction would be. The settlement is not just about signs and logos. We’ve ensured that symbols of the park’s history will remain the property of the American people.” Ken Yager, president of Yosemite Climbing Association and 43-year Valley resident, was more pragmatic. “I think that locals never embraced the new names,” Yager says. “I continued to call the Ahwahnee Hotel ‘the Ahwahnee.’” 

Immediately after the settlement, Yosemite’s employees got to work removing the temporary signage they’d erected in 2016. New menus, directories, website listings, and merchandise like ball caps, souvenir shot glasses, and T-shirts now reflect the traditional names. 

The precedent is significant for other parks who are dealing with trademarks and concession contracts. A similar battle is being waged at Grand Canyon National Park. In reaction to the lawsuit, the state of California has passed the California Heritage Protection Act, a law that forbids park concessionaires from claiming or trademarking any of the cultural, recreational, or historic resources in the areas where they operate. “This is good for Yosemite National Park,” says Gediman. “The money the U.S. government spent will protect other state, local, and national parks. For that reason alone it is a good deal.”

Northern Italy Will Host the 2026 Winter Olympic Games

26 Jun

The Winter Olympic Games are returning to Europe in 2026. Northern Italy’s world-class ski resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo in the heart of the Dolomites, and the fashion/economic powerhouse of Milan will co-host the games. The two sites are about 220 miles apart. Cortina will host alpine ski racing and curling, with Milan focusing on skating and ice hockey. Other snowsports are slated for several alpine villages in between.

The IOC had narrowed the potential sites to two contenders—a joint bid from the Swedish resort town of Åre and the country’s capital, Stockholm, and Milan-Cortina. Both regions have long, colorful histories in winter sports and extremely enthusiastic fan bases. According to the IOC, there were 47 votes in favor of the Italian bid versus 34 votes for the Swedish proposal. Sweden’s efforts were stoked by a last-minute appeal by the mayor of Stockholm (“ABBA is everywhere,” she explained before singing lines from Dancing Queen, one of the most famous songs of the iconic Swedish pop group), but the promise of the longer days and sunnier weather of the Italian Dolomites prevailed. The IOC has committed to providing at least $925 million toward Italy’s potential Games budget of up to $1.7 billion. The IOC decision means Milan-Cortina will also host the Paralympic Winter Games 2026.

The multi-city Olympic venue isn’t new. In 1956, Australia’s strict equine quarantine laws caused the equestrian competition of the Melbourne Olympics to be held in Stockholm. But for 2026, it’s a result of the Olympic Game’s restructured bidding process, called the “New Norm.” The New Norm is based on 118 reforms that were implemented to check sky-rocketing costs and the excessive building of soon-to-be abandoned venues that critics argued hurt, rather than helped, Olympic cities. 

Italy has hosted two previous Winter Games—in Torino in 2006, and in Cortina in 1956. The 1944 Winter Olympic Games were slated for Cortina but were cancelled due to WWII. 

Cortina is known for the pink-hued limestone of the Dolomites and ever-flowing pink prosecco. It’s also home to one of the raddest downhill and Super G courses in the world. These races generally take place on the crazy-steep Olimpia delle Tofane slope. It’s arguably the most spectacular setting in alpine racing, with the shark-toothed Dolomites looming above. The downhill race starts at 7,612-feet and finishes at 5,118—a terrifying, icy 2,493-foot drop. 

“Cortina is one of my favorite stops on the women’s World Cup tour,” says two-time Olympian and U.S. Ski Team member Laurenne Ross. “From the Dolomite peaks to the town’s unique vibe to the course preparation, not many places beat Cortina. The snow conditions are always impeccable, the downhill course is fast and fun. The gorgeous mountain peaks, and the best-in-the-world pizza make Cortina the perfect spot for the Olympics.” 

IOC President, George Bach, said that one reason the Games were awarded to Milan-Cortina is the promise of sustainability. “We can look forward to outstanding and sustainable Olympic Winter Games in a traditional winter sports country,” says Bach. According to Bach, the Cortina-Milan venue will incorporate 93-percent of “existing or temporary competition venues.” That means 13 out of 14 of the venues slated for the Milan-Cortina Games already exist (including the site of the closing ceremonies—the Verona Arena, a Roman amphitheater built in AD 30). The Games are scheduled to start on February 6 at the San Siro stadium, home of the AC Milan and Inter Milan soccer teams.