Matterhorn Bobsleds
Matterhorn Bobsleds
Poster for Matterhorn Bobsleds
Land Fantasyland (formerly in Tomorrowland)
Designer WED Enterprises
Attraction type Steel roller coaster
Theme Switzerland mountain
Propulsion method Chain lift hill
Opening date June 14, 1959
Vehicle type Bobsled Themed Cars
Vehicle capacity 8
Cars per vehicle 2
Guests per car 4
Ride duration 2:07 & 2:26 minutes
Total height 147 ft (44.8 m)
Track height 100 ft (30.5 m)
Maximum speed 27 mph (43.5 km/h)
Height requirements 36" (91 cm)
Number of lifts 1 per track
Length 2037 ft (620.8 m) & 2134 ft (650.4 m)
The Matterhorn Bobsleds or the Matterhorn is an attraction composed of two intertwining steel roller coasters, which opened in 1959 at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. It is modeled after the Matterhorn, a mountain in the Swiss Alps. It is the first tubular steel continuous track roller coaster ever constructed and thus an ACE (American Coaster Enthusiasts) Coaster Landmark.

Located on the border between Tomorrowland and Fantasyland (see below), it employs forced perspective to seem more impressively large. Throughout the day, climbers dressed in Swiss mountain-climbing garb may be seen scaling the peak, often accompanied by Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse and Goofy.

The ride ascends guests to the top of the mountain, from which point the ride is a straight downhill run through the inside and outside of the mountain, with scenery depicting a gem mining operation and an abominable snowman on the way. At the ride's end, the bobsled runs through a small pool of water, serving not only to splash the guests but also cool down the vehicle's brakes.


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, was improved with benches and pathways to encourage its use as a picnic area. 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. In this period the hill began to be known as Snow Hill. By now instead of picnicking, the hill had come to be used primarily as a nighttime lovers' lane, 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. 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 Disney's extended vacation in Switzerland while filming Third Man on the Mountain. He was impressed by the beauty of the real Matterhorn and merged the toboggan ride concept with the thoughts of 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. One of three major new Tomorrowland attractions to open that year, the Matterhorn debuted on June 14, 1959. Built by coaster builder Arrow Development and WED Imagineering, it was the first tubular steel roller coaster in the world. It consisted of a wood and steel infrastructure surrounded by man-made rock.

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 being only minimally disguised as a 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 1978, the Matterhorn received a major refurbishment. The Imagineers' biggest task was to break up the hollow interior space 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 first lift hill that had allowed guests to briefly glimpse the entire southern part of the park.

Another major addition was the Abominable Snowman, a yeti by the name of Harold. Harold exists as three similar Audio-Animatronic figures that roar at the bobsledders; the first is visible from both tracks, 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 Harold's 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 a rounder, white cars decorated with orange and red stripes.

The Skyway continued to travel through the mountain for the next sixteen years, 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.

The bluish glow of the crystals is easily seen from the ground at night. It is also worth noting that the Matterhorn's external appearance has changed over time. The Matterhorn is painted a warmer gray than it once was, and the "snow" on its sides has become patchier, though the current paint job more closely replicates the sparse snow on the real Matterhorn's upper faces. With the exception of the aforementioned filling of certain holes, the actual external structure of the mountain remains largely unchanged from its original construction.

In 2012, the Matterhorn underwent another massive renovation. This included repainting and resculpting parts of the mountain face to achieve a greater sense of realism with the new snow painted in such a manner to feel more naturally spread onto the mountain with beads of glass mixed in to give it a shimmering effect. This would also be the first time the Matterhorn was completely covered in scaffolding since it's initial construction. Additionally, the Matterhorn would receive a new set of bobsleds and a renovated load area.




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 mountain their associated loading line begins in. The vehicles hold up to four passengers each, seated single-file. After the 1978 upgrade, the individual vehicles were joined into pairs, increasing the capacity to eight riders. The safety restraints consist of a simple airline-style seatbelt. There are hand grips inside the cars, as well a handrail outside the shell of the vehicle.

The Matterhorn employs only one lift hill. 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 another couple of stories. The rest of the ride is an 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 fins 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 also a cast member break room inside the mountain at the base.

At the end of the attraction, guests hear the now-famous "Remain seated please; Permaneced 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 seatbelt fastened; Permaneced sentados por favor." The changed English dialogue is still 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 on 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 spiel is

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

As of right now, the Matterhorn is being worked on and new cars are in the making as well as new tracks.


  • In 1964, 15-year-old Mark Maples of Long Beach, California, was injured after he stood up in the Matterhorn Bobsleds and fell out. It is reported that his restraint was undone by his ride companion. He died three days later as a result of these injuries.
  • On January 3, 1984, 48-year-old Dolly Regina Young of Fremont, California was thrown from a Matterhorn Bobsleds car and struck by the next oncoming bobsled. An investigation showed that her seatbelt was found unbuckled after the accident. It is unclear whether Young deliberately unfastened her belt or if the seatbelt malfunctioned.

Cultural references

  • The video game Epic Mickey has its own version of the Matterhorn named Mickeyjunk Mountain, where old Mickey memorabilia goes when it becomes forgotten.
  • In the Emperor's New School episode "Rabbit Face", when Yzma and Kronk ride to their secret lab, they ride past the Abominable Snowman.

External links

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