Matterhorn Bobsleds

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Matterhorn Bobsleds
The Matterhorn in 2016
Park section Fantasyland
Coordinates 33°48′47″N 117°55′04″W / 33.813184°N 117.917856°W / 33.813184; -117.917856
Status Operating
Opening date June 14, 1959
General Statistics
Type Steel
Manufacturer Arrow Development
Designer WED Enterprises
Model Special Coaster Systems
Track layout Dual-tracked
Lift/launch system Chain lift hill
Fantasyland Track Tomorrowland Track
Height 80 ft (24.4 m) 80 ft (24.4 m)
Length 2,037 ft (620.9 m) 2,134 ft (650.4 m)
Speed 27 mph (43.5 km/h) 27 mph (43.5 km/h)
Inversions 0 0
Duration 2:07 2:26
Height restriction 42 in (107 cm)
Trains 20 trains with 2 cars. Riders are arranged 1 across in 3 rows for a total of 6 riders per train.
Theme Swiss mountain
Single rider line available
Must transfer from wheelchair
Matterhorn Bobsleds at RCDB
Pictures of Matterhorn Bobsleds at RCDB

Matterhorn Bobsleds are a pair of intertwined steel roller coasters at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. It is modeled after the Matterhorn, a mountain in the Alps on the border between Switzerland and Italy. It is the first known tubular steel continuous-track roller coaster.[1][2] Located on the border between Tomorrowland and Fantasyland, it employs forced perspective to seem larger.



During the construction of the park, dirt from the excavation of Sleeping Beauty Castle's moat was piled in an area between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. When the park opened, the area, dubbed Holiday Hill[3] (and later Lookout Mountain), was improved with benches and pathways to encourage its use as a picnic area.[4] After the opening of the Disneyland Skyway in 1956, Walt Disney conceived the idea of a toboggan ride on the mountain with real snow, but the logistics caused vehement objections by Disneyland construction chief Joe Fowler.[3] In this period, the hill began to be known as Snow Hill. By now, instead of being a place for picnicking, the hill had come to be used primarily as a nighttime lovers' lane,[3] much to Disney's dismay. New wild mouse-style roller coasters got the attention of Disneyland executives, who began to consider applying this emerging technology to the creation of a toboggan-themed coaster ride on an artificial mountain at the site.[3]

The Matterhorn Bobsleds have a striking resemblance to "one of the oldest rollercoasters in the world, Rutschebanen, also known as Bjergbanen (the Mountain Coaster, which opened in 1914 and still operates with a rider on each train braking the car on each hill)." Similar to Rutschebanen (at the Tivoli in Copenhagen, Denmark), which predated it by nearly half a century, the top of the Matterhorn Bobsleds ride is also an icy scene, and the snowbirds and the interior featuring the Abominable Snowman are also quite similar in design.[5]

1962 from Fantasyland side. The Matterhorn hid the central Skyway cable pylon. Waterfalls are visible on the left and right sides.

The structure was also intended to act as a decorative overlay to camouflage the central pylon of the Skyway. Use of the Matterhorn, both in style and name, grew from Walt Disney's extended vacation in Switzerland while filming Third Man on the Mountain.[6] In a moment of inspiration, impressed by the beauty of the real Matterhorn, Walt grabbed a postcard of the mountain from a souvenir stand and sent it back to Imagineer (architect) Vic Greene with the message, "Vic. Build This. Walt." This resulted in the merger of the toboggan-ride concept with the idea for a bobsled coaster ride that would run around and through the structure. The peak was first shown in a conceptual drawing that was once on display at the Disney Gallery.

The view to the northwest shows a corner of the now-defunct Junior Autopia, which would be replaced by both the Matterhorn and the Submarine Voyage attraction the following year. As one of three major new Tomorrowland attractions to open that year, the Matterhorn debuted on June 14, 1959.[7] Built by coaster builder Arrow Development and WED Imagineering, it was the first tubular steel roller coaster in the world.[2] It consisted of a wood and steel infrastructure surrounded by man-made rock. Starting with the 1961 holiday season, a revolving star stood atop the Matterhorn.

Trees could be seen on its sides; by making the trees at higher altitudes smaller, the Imagineers used forced perspective to augment the mountain's height. Waterfalls cascaded down its sides and frequently sprayed riders. Inside was a large, open space through which the bobsleds traveled. The peak had numerous holes in its exterior through which the bobsleds exited and re-entered, though the space within was not elaborately themed, with the infrastructure only minimally disguised as rock. The Skyway passed through the center of the mountain via a pair of holes on the Fantasyland and Tomorrowland sides. Skyway riders could see down into the Matterhorn's interior as they glided through.


In the early 1970s, the ride was officially made a part of Fantasyland, but this was merely a prelude to far more significant changes. In 1973, the revolving star at the top of the Matterhorn was removed, in part because of the 1973 oil crisis that had hit the US. In 1978, the Matterhorn received a major refurbishment. Most notably, the hollow interior space was broken up into a number of small, icy caves and tunnels with far more convincing theming. Some holes in the mountain's skin were filled in as well, including the two large openings at the top of the lift hill that had allowed guests to briefly glimpse the entire southern part of the park.

Another major addition was an Abominable Snowman that had taken residence in the mountain and was affectionately named Harold by the Imagineers.[8] The creature exists as three similar Audio-Animatronic figures that roar at the bobsledders; the first is visible from both tracks at the point at which they divide to take separate paths, while the other two are visible only from their respective tracks. Each track also features a pair of red eyes that glow in the dark shortly after the lift hill while its roar is heard. These roars can be heard from ground level as well, even over the recorded howling of the Alpine wind. The bobsleds themselves were also changed from the original flat, luge-like, multi-colored two-seaters to the rounder, white cars decorated with orange and red stripes. The bobsleds also changed from a single car to two cars connected to one another to form a "train".


The Skyway continued to travel through the mountain, but its passageway was now enclosed in similarly themed ice caves. Following the closure of the Skyway in 1994, the cavernous holes through which the Skyway buckets had traveled were partially filled in. The holes in the Tomorrowland face remained mostly intact, and a grotto filled with glimmering crystals was installed nearby. An abandoned crate labeled "Wells Expedition" was also added as a tribute to Frank Wells, who had died earlier that year.[9] Wells had completed six of the Seven Summits, with only Mount Everest remaining at the time of his death. The bluish glow of the crystals could be easily seen from the ground at night. With the exception of the filling of certain holes, the actual external structure of the mountain remained largely unchanged from its original construction.

The Matterhorn temporarily closed on January 9, 2012 for a six-month refurbishment. The mountain was renovated, receiving new paint externally and some repairs internally. The vehicle seating arrangement was also modified to accommodate a single passenger in each seat rather than a lap-sitting arrangement of two riders. This resulted in three individual seats within each bobsled, with two cars linked together for a total of six guests, similar to the configuration of the trains at Walt Disney World's version of Space Mountain. The new bobsleds were painted red, blue, and green, and the ride reopened on June 15, 2012.[10] As a result of the new trains, the height requirement has since raised to 42 in (107 cm) from the original 35 in (89 cm).

Part of the rehab included giving the entire mountain exterior a facelift. For only the second time, the first since when the attraction was originally built, scaffolding was erected all the way from the base of the mountain to the top. The mountain had been painted repeatedly through the years, resulting in a mostly white Matterhorn mountain with the appearance of snow, but in 2012, the entire mountain was made bare again and was carefully painted in a style more realistic to the look of the real Matterhorn. This meant placing more "snow" on the northern side and less of it on the southern side of the mountain. For the first time since the Matterhorn's early days, the base of the mountain was mostly snowless. The "snow" on the mountain's surface in the past was merely white paint, but for the refurbished ride, glass beads were mixed into the paint so that the snow would reflect sunlight as does actual snow. Imagineer Jim Crouch served as a field art director over the rehab project. The mountain climbers also returned after the refurbishment.[11]

On January 5, 2015, the attraction was closed for an extended refurbishment to prepare for the park's 60th anniversary. It reopened on May 22, 2015, with new special effects and updated animatronics. On the lift hills, a projected image of the Abominable Snowman is visible through a sheet of ice. A newer animatronic version of the Snowman appears at the top, while improved sound effects help create the illusion that it is in pursuit as the train descends down the mountain.[12][13][14] Disney's FastPass ride system was added to the roller coaster in April 2017.[15]

The Matterhorn once again closed on July 30, 2018 for another renovation, this time redesigning the waiting queue. The ride reopened on November 16, 2018 with a new queue area. The front of the old Matterhorn entrance was reworked to accommodate a larger queue area.[16]


  • 1956: Walt Disney conceives an idea for a toboggan-style roller coaster inside of a mountain.
  • 1958: Construction begins.
  • June 14, 1959: The Matterhorn Bobsleds open as the first tubular steel roller coaster in the world. It opens alongside the Disneyland Monorail and Submarine Voyage as part of an expansion to Tomorrowland.
  • May 1964: A 15-year-old boy from Long Beach, California named Mark Maples is injured after he stands up in his bobsled car and falls out. It was reported that his restraint was undone by his ride companion. He dies as a result of his injuries three days after the incident. This is Disneyland's first fatality.[17]
  • Early 1970s: The Matterhorn Bobsleds is officially made part of Fantasyland.
  • 1978: The Matterhorn receives a refurbishment by which Imagineers make smaller caves and tunnels with more theming. The ride also receives new trains and its most notable addition is the Abominable Snowman, which roars at riders twice.
  • January 3, 1984: A 48-year-old woman from Fremont, California named Dolly Young is decapitated when she is thrown from a bobsled car and struck an oncoming bobsled. An investigation reveals that her seat belt was not buckled, though the report does not indicate whether the seat belt was deliberately unfastened or malfunctioned.[18]
  • 1994: When the Skyway closes, the Matterhorn openings through which the Skyway had passed are partially filled in. Glimmering crystals and the Wells Expedition crate are added at the beginning of the ride.
  • January 9, 2012: The Matterhorn closes for a six-month refurbishment that will include a new outside fixture of the mountain and new trains with different restraints.
  • June 15, 2012: The Matterhorn Bobsleds reopen.
  • January 5, 2015: The Matterhorn closes for another refurbishment that will include a projected image of the Abominable Snowman at the top of the lift hill and an updated animatronic of it.
  • May 22, 2015: The Matterhorn Bobsleds reopens as part of the Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration, the 60th anniversary of the park's opening.
  • April 28, 2017: FastPass is added to the Matterhorn Bobsleds.
  • July 30, 2018: The Matterhorn Bobsleds are closed for another renovation.
  • November 16, 2018: The Matterhorn Bobsleds reopen with a new waiting queue.

The attraction[edit]

The ride consists of two separate tracks that run roughly parallel to each other for much of the ride, intertwining and eventually deviating from each other at the loading areas. They are the Fantasyland track and Tomorrowland track, named for the side of the mountains where their loading lines begin. The vehicles originally held up to four passengers each, seated single-file. After the 1978 upgrade, the individual vehicles were joined into pairs, with lap seating increasing the capacity per train to eight. In 2012, the cars were replaced with new vehicles as part of a six-month ride closure, and it currently features two cars paired together with three single-file seats per car.[19] The safety restraints consist of a car seat belt. There are hand grips inside the cars, but there are no longer hand grips on the outside of the bobsled.

There is one lift hill on each track. Bobsleds ascend parallel to each other at the start of the ride, climbing past walls featuring snow-like special effects. The top of this lift hill constitutes the highest point of the ride itself, though the mountain continues upward for several more stories. The rest of the ride is a mostly unpowered coast through the Matterhorn's many caverns and passageways.

The splash-down pools at the end of each track serve dual purposes. They not only cool off the braking pads mounted on the underside of the bobsleds, but the impact into the water itself acts as a braking mechanism. Because of their constant exposure to water, the fiberglass bodies are regularly waxed.

For many years, a basketball half-court existed inside the structure above the coaster, near the top of the mountain, where the mountain climbers could play between climbs. As internal access to the mountain was locked for safety reasons, the court was accessible only to the climbers. The court was relocated slightly during the installation of the Tinkerbell flight equipment prior to the 50th-anniversary celebration; the hoop and playing area remain intact. There is a cast member break room inside the mountain at the base. The court is said by many cast members and the mountain's climbers to remain in existence today.

At the end of the attraction, guests hear the now-famous "Remain seated please; Permanecer sentados por favor" safety announcement; it is one of many recordings by the former "Voice of Disneyland," Jack Wagner. The recording was changed in 2005 to say "Remain seated with your seat belt fastened; Permanecer sentados por favor." The changed English dialogue is still in the voice of Jack Wagner, as it was borrowed from the attraction's breakdown announcement. This recording also introduces the Tomorrowland segment of the "Remember... Dreams Come True" fireworks show. The safety announcement was featured in the title track of the 1995 No Doubt album Tragic Kingdom, and the line was spoken by Barbie in the film Toy Story 2. The ride's safety message is

"For your safety, remain seated with your seat belts fastened, keeping your hands, arms, feet, and legs inside the bobsled. And be sure to watch your children. Auf Wiedersehen!"

Another variant goes,

"For your safety, remain seated with your seat belt fastened, keeping your hands, arms, feet, and legs inside the bobsled. And please, watch your kids. Thank you!"

After this saying, riders enter the cavern and climb the lift hill, with the shadow of the Abominable Snowman peering onto guests. Once the bobsled car has disengaged from the chain, riders pass through a dark tunnel. The glowing red eyes of the Abominable Snowman appear, accentuated by his roar, and the trains emerge into a cavern filled with ruined bobsleds and sleighs. A crate stamped with "Wells Expedition" may also be seen. Both tracks take a left-hand turn, then split off before they can crash into the first animatronic. The cars swirl around the mountain, dipping under tunnels and by the waterfalls. Each track then passes another animatronic of the Snowman. Soon after the second encounter, riders plunge into the alpine lake and return to the station. No on-ride photo is available for this ride.

Relations to other Disney parks[edit]

Disneyland in California is the only Disney theme park with a Matterhorn Bobsled ride. The tracks of Space Mountain at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom were based on the designs of the Matterhorn but are not identical to them. The Matterhorn's newer bobsleds, added in 1978, were based on the other ride's rockets, which had debuted in 1975. When Space Mountain was built at Disneyland, it was a completely new design with a single track and vehicles that seated riders side by side rather than behind one another. Various proposals to bring the Matterhorn to Walt Disney World existed over the years, but none came to fruition. The most detailed concept was for the Matterhorn to be the main attraction of a Switzerland Pavilion for the World Showcase at Epcot, but this failed when Disney could not secure a sponsor.

Disney's Animal Kingdom contains a roller coaster with a similar theme: Expedition Everest. It is a railway adventure to the top of an abstract version of the Himalayan mountain where riders encounter another fictional mountain beast, the Yeti.

Other public events and changes[edit]

In the 1980s, the Matterhorn Ski Club (ride operators led by Chuck Abbott) began buying seeing eye dogs from Guide Dogs of the Desert with the unclaimed coins and knives that fell out of pockets during the ride. This soon expanded to collecting cans from every employee break area. At one time, the bottom floor of the Matterhorn was filled with bags of aluminum cans. The adopting dog owners were treated like royalty whenever they visited the park.

After the original 1978 Audio-Animatronic Abominable Snowman figures were removed in 2015, one was placed at the queue area of Disney California Adventure's Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! attraction, which opened on May 27, 2017. The figure is portrayed as one of the Collector's many artifacts on exhibition.

In popular culture[edit]

The music video for Randy Newman's song "I Love L.A." shows the mountain when he sings "look at that mountain".

The song "Disney's Dream Debased" by the Fall (from the album The Wonderful and Frightening World Of...) was inspired by the 1984 decapitation accident that happened on the Matterhorn very shortly after band members Mark and Brix Smith had been on the ride themselves.[20]

The video game Epic Mickey has its own version of the Matterhorn named Mickeyjunk Mountain, where old Mickey memorabilia goes when it is forgotten.

The Abominable Snowman from the attraction appears in the 2013 Mickey Mouse short "Yodelberg", in which Mickey encounters the creature while climbing a mountain to see Minnie. The bobsled ride vehicles from the attraction litter the entrance of the beast's ice-cavern home.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "ACE Coaster Landmark Awards". Archived from the original on December 12, 2010. Retrieved February 22, 2008.
  2. ^ a b "Why don't I fall out when a roller coaster goes upside down? (Everyday Mysteries: Fun Science Facts from the Library of Congress)". Retrieved February 1, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d "What Got Into Walt's Matterhorn?".
  4. ^ "The Matterhorn – the birth of tubular rail coasters". Archived from the original on July 13, 2011.
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Filming Third Man on the Mountain". Retrieved August 3, 2019.
  7. ^ Brady Macdonald (June 11, 2019). "Photos: A look back at Matterhorn Bobsleds, Submarine Voyage and Monorail on 60th anniversary of Disneyland rides". MediaNews Group, Inc. Retrieved June 14, 2019.
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ Miller, Martin (June 15, 2012). "Disneyland's new Matterhorn: Snow white sights, abominable sounds". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 13, 2013.
  11. ^ Brigante, Ricky (March 21, 2013). "New Matterhorn Bobsleds vehicles offer lap bars, individual seats at Disneyland". Inside the Magic. Retrieved March 25, 2013.
  12. ^ Pimentel, Joseph (January 16, 2015). "Upgrades close several Disney rides". The Orange County Register. Retrieved March 10, 2015.
  13. ^ Glover, Erin (April 9, 2015). "Bringing New Magic to Matterhorn Bobsleds and Peter Pan's Flight at Disneyland Park". Disney Parks Blog. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  14. ^ Pimentel, Joseph (May 21, 2015). "Video: See Disneyland's bigger, scarier Abominable Snowman on the Matterhorn". The Orange County Register. Retrieved June 10, 2015.
  15. ^ Eades, Mark (April 6, 2017). "New Fastpass now works for Toy Story Midway Mania, Matterhorn at Disneyland". The Orange County Register. Retrieved April 17, 2017.
  16. ^ Daps, Mr. (November 16, 2018). "New Matterhorn Queue Adds More Space and More Theming at the Disneyland Resort!". DAPSMagic. Retrieved November 19, 2018.
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ Miller, Martin (June 15, 2012). "Disneyland's new Matterhorn: Snow white sights, abominable sounds". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles California. Retrieved March 19, 2015.
  20. ^ "Disney's Dream Debased". Retrieved May 19, 2020.

Further reading[edit]

Jason Surrell. The Disney Mountains: Imagineering at Its Peak. Disney Editions, 2007. ISBN 1-4231-0155-3

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 33°48′48″N 117°55′04″W / 33.8133°N 117.9178°W / 33.8133; -117.9178