Matterhorn Bobsleds: A Guide to Disneyland’s Iconic Ride

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The Matterhorn Bobsleds is an iconic roller coaster at Disneyland in California. Known for its wild ride and beautiful view, this is no doubt a must-ride attraction in the Disney theme park.

Matterhorn Bobsleds: A Guide to Disneyland’s Iconic Ride
Matterhorn Bobsleds: A Guide to Disneyland’s Iconic Ride [Source: Disney]

There’s a reason we have a limited edition, signed statue of it at home. It’s one of the best rides there is! Also, we’re superfans. 😉

If you have ever gone to Disneyland in Anaheim, it is impossible for you not to spot the famous Matterhorn Bobsleds mountain. After all, the towering attraction modeled after the Swiss alps can be seen from all over the park.

It’s also hard not to notice it with the snaking queues for the ride. One look at the people lining up and you will know it’s a ride parkgoers look forward to.

What is the Matterhorn Bobsleds? Why do so many people line up for the ride? Is the Matterhorn Bobsleds scary? We are here to give you a guide on all the things you need to know about Disneyland’s iconic mountain roller coaster.

What Is The Matterhorn Bobsleds?

The Matterhorn Bobsleds is a pair of intertwined steel roller coasters at Disneyland in California. It carries an alpine theme following the Matterhorn, a mountain in the Swiss alps.

Just like its namesake that serves as the border between Switzerland and Italy, the Matterhorn Bobsleds is seated between Tomorrowland and Fantasyland.

Disney unveiled this ride in 1959 and it has been a crowd favorite ever since. This title is affirmed by the long lines that snake around the ride’s queue all year round.

What To Expect With The Matterhorn Bobsleds

What makes the Matterhorn Bobsleds so special that people endure a long waiting time to get on the ride? A couple of things actually…

Imagine getting on a bobsled that fits 6 individuals and going on a ride through a snowy mountain. You better prepare yourself for an astounding ascent of 80 feet and a quick trip to an icy cave. (Flashbacks to Hoth, anybody?)

Along the way you will pass through snowy chutes, jagged rocky ledges, and bridges.

Feel the adrenaline as you go near some waterfalls before you end your trip in an alpine lake.

What Parkgoers Have To Say About The Matterhorn Bobsleds

The Matterhorn Bobsleds is one of the attractions at Disneyland that people love. Public feedback confirms this.

In fact, it got into the list of top rides people love at Disney theme parks.

Parkgoers recommend trying this ride when visiting Disneyland.

These funny tweets sum up what we feel about the Matterhorn Bobsleds.

The History of The Matterhorn Bobsleds

Before we talk any more about the details of this awesome ride, let’s first take a stroll down memory lane and see how it became the iconic attraction that it is now.

1950’s: Conceptualization and Construction

Disney did not have the Matterhorn Bobsleds in their initial plans for Disneyland. They constructed this attraction after the opening of the theme park.

The area where Matterhorn Bobsleds stands was originally a pile of land that was gathered from the excavation of the moat for Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. 

The mound between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland was called Holiday Hill and later on, Lookout Mountain. To improve its aesthetics, Disney added benches and pathways for it to be used as an area for picnics.

Holiday Hill in the 1950’s [Source: Pinterest/Sally Hansen]
Holiday Hill in the 1950’s [Source: Pinterest/Sally Hansen]

In 1956, Disney opened the Disneyland Skyway – a gondola attraction that passed through Holiday Hill. Walt Disney thought it would be nice to add a toboggan ride on the mound and real snow. Joe Fowler, who was Disneyland’s construction chief, informed him of the challenges in terms of logistics.

During this time, people referred to the hill as Snow Hill. Things took a different turn as the place turned into a nighttime lovers’ lane which Walt Disney was not fond of.

The idea of making the mountain ride came upon Disney while he was on vacation while filming Third Man on the Mountain in Switzerland. The Swiss Matterhorn and its beauty inspired him.

Walt Disney picked up a postcard of the Matterhorn and sent it to Disney Imagineer Vic Greene with the words, “Vic. Build this. Walt.”

This sparked the concept of putting together two ride ideas – the toboggan ride and bobsled coaster ride. The team came up with a ride that would go around and through the mountain. 

Disney then went to work and construction of the Matterhorn Bobsleds began.

The ride is reminiscent of the Rustchebanen or the Mountain Coaster. Being one of the oldest roller coasters in the world, it opened in 1914 and has a snow mountain theme with elements of ice and winter. It also has its own version of the Abominable Snowman.

Disney also had another reason for building the Matterhorn Bobsleds. They wanted to use it to hide the cable pylon of the Skyway.

1959: Opening Of The Matterhorn Bobsleds

After construction was successfully completed, they opened the Matterhorn Bobsleds on June 14, 1959. It was one of the three major additions to Tomorrowland that year.

Coaster builder Arrow Development worked with WED Imagineering in building what is known as the first tubular steel roller coaster in the world. For this infrastructure, they used wood and steel for the foundation and man-made rock for the facade.

FUN FACT: Did you know that the Matterhorn Bobsleds is exactly 100 times smaller than the mountain peak in Switzerland?

It looks larger than it actually is because Disney used forced perspective. Forced perspective makes use of elements to create an illusion that something is bigger than its actual size. The Disney teams have used all sorts of interesting tricks and illusions through the years, including the imperceptible incline into the Magic Kingdom in Florida.

The Disney Monorail, Skyway, and Matterhorn Bobsleds in 1960
The Disney Monorail, Skyway, and Matterhorn Bobsleds in 1960 [Source: Disney]

Trees lined up Disney’s Matterhorn and beautiful waterfalls cascaded on the sides. The design team made the trees located in the higher part of the peak smaller. This gave the illusion through forced perspective that the whole thing was bigger than it is.

The mountain had holes where the bobsleds of the roller coaster passed through. The now defunct Skyway also passed through the Matterhorn. This was made possible by a pair of holes both on the Tomorrowland and Fantasyland sides of the attraction.

FUN FACT: To add to the winter effect that the Swiss alps is known for, the team behind the attraction used 800 gallons of paint for a snowfall effect. 

In the holiday season of 1961, Disney added a revolving star on top of the Matterhorn.

1970’s: Refurbishments and Harold

The 1970’s marked a number of significant changes to the Matterhorn Bobsleds. For one, Disney officially announced it as an attraction of Fantasyland. 

In 1973, Disney removed the star that served as an ornament of the mountain for a decade. But the major changes began in 1978 when the Matterhorn Bobsleds’ then-hollow interior was turned into small icy caves and tunnels.

Disney also filled in several holes in the mountain’s skin which included an opening at the top that served as a viewpoint that offered a nice perspective of the southern part of the park.

Walt Disney And The Matterhorn Scale Model
Walt Disney And The Matterhorn Scale Model [Source: Disney]

Everyone will agree, though, that the most significant change would be the addition of a monster that lived in the peaks of the attraction. What better way to make the park’s alps more true-to-life than to put a legend lurking in the shadows?

Harold, which the Disney Imagineers called him, was an audio-animatronic figure that was born to scare riders with his roar and glaring red eyes. Riders had the chance to spot Harold twice throughout the ride.

The seats or bobsleds also had a makeover. Originally a flat and multi-colored single car, the bobsleds became two rounder cars with white paint covered with red and orange stripes. The two cars were connected which resembled a train.

1990’s: Skyway and Crate Tribute

Because of the improvements in the previous decades, guests who took the Skyway ride passed through the Matterhorn and its ice-themed caves. However, the operations of the well-loved gondola ceased in 1994.

As a result, Disney partially filled in the mountain holes which were originally the ride’s passageway. The ones by the Tomorrowland side, however, were left untouched so they added a grotto with beautiful crystals instead.

Disney also paid tribute to their own mountaineering legend by the name of Frank Wells. Frank served as the president for The Walt Disney Company for a decade. 

The Disney executive accomplished six of the Seven Summits with Mount Everest as the last on his bucketlist. He was unable to complete his goal because he tragically passed away in a helicopter accident.

The Matterhorn Bobsled Wells Expedition Tribute to Frank Wells [Source: Laughing Place]
The Matterhorn Bobsled Wells Expedition Tribute to Frank Wells [Source: Laughing Place]

Disney placed an abandoned crate on the Matterhorn Bobsleds with the title “Wells Expedition” in honor of their late president.

2012: Refurbishment and Improvements

Maintenance is important to keep all attractions looking and performing at their best. This is why on January 9, 2012, Disney temporarily closed the Matterhorn Bobsleds as it underwent a six-month refurbishment.

Paint jobs and repairs were done on the mountain’s facade and internal caves. Disney made sure that the improved Matterhorn would look like the real thing so they placed more “snow” on the northern side of the peak.

This new look made the mountain look snowless compared to its original white-bathed look. For an extra touch of beauty, the Imagineers added glass beads, so the snow will sparkle when hit by sunlight. 

The bobsleds were also given another look with 3 individual seats in each bobsled and 2 cars connected together to accommodate 6 guests.

Matterhorn Bobsleds Car [Source: Disneyland]
Matterhorn Bobsleds Car [Source: Disneyland]

If you have seen the seats at Walt Disney World’s Space Mountain, you will have an idea how the new bobsleds in red, blue, and green looked like.

Field art director Imagineer Jim Crouc made these improvements possible.

After months of waiting, the Matterhorn Bobsleds finally reopened on June 15, 2012.

2015: Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary

In line with the theme park’s 60th year, Disney closed the Matterhorn Bobsleds for another renovation on January 5, 2015, to prepare it for the celebration. 

When it was made available to the public again on May 22, 2015, parkgoers were treated to new special effects and amazing animatronics.

The improvements included a projected image of the Abominable Snowman on an icy sheet and a new track of sound effects to add more thrill and excitement.

Harold! [Source: Fandom]
Harold! [Source: Fandom]

Harold also got a facelift with his updated animatronics! 🙂

2017-2020: Queues And More Improvements

One thing great about Disneyland is that everything goes through improvement. This ensures park-goers that there will always be something new for them on their next visit and that classic rides remain in great condition at all times.

In April 2017, Disney added its FastPass ride system to the Matterhorn Bobsleds attraction. This made queueing easier for those who used the special Disneyland pass.

Disney closed the attraction again on July 30, 2018, to redesign its waiting queue. This was mainly because the ride was one of the attractions with the most waiting time due to the volume of people who wanted to try it.

It was back again on November 16, 2018, much to every Disneyland visitor’s delight (including this one!).

With its new entrance area, the attraction was able to efficiently accommodate a larger queue.

The Matterhorn Bobsleds Timeline

Disney Monorail, Matterhorn Bobsleds, And  Submarine Voyage in 1959
Disney Monorail, Matterhorn Bobsleds, And Submarine Voyage in 1959 [Source: Disney]

Here is a timeline of many of the significant things that have happened to the Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland in Anaheim, California.

  • 1956: Walt Disney thought of making a toboggan-style roller coaster inside a mountain.
  • 1958: Disney began construction of the ride.
  • June 14, 1959: The Matterhorn Bobsleds debuted to the public. Its opening was simultaneous with other Disneyland rides, like the Disneyland Monorail and Submarine Voyage.
  • 1970’s: Disney announced the ride as part of Fantasyland.
  • 1978: The attraction’s mountain gave it an improvement in terms of aesthetic and its bobsled vehicles. They added Harold to the ride. (One of my favorite parts!)
  • 1994: The Disney Skyway closed which made way for another set of refurbishments. Disney patrially filled in the holes and added crystals and a tribute to Frank Wells.
  • January 9, 2012: Disney closed the Matterhorn Bobsleds for six months for maintenance and improvement. They gave the Matterhorn’s facade and seats a new look.
  • June 15, 2012: The attraction’s six-month closure ended and it was reopened to the public.
  • January 5, 2015: Disney closed the attraction in preparation for the theme park’s anniversary. The changes included a projected image of Harold and awesome animatronic updates.
  • May 22, 2015: Disney made the Matterhorn Bobsleds open to the public after the work completion. 
  • April 28, 2017: The attraction started to accommodate the Disney FastPass.
  • July 30, 2018: Disney closed the Matterhorn Bobsleds for another round of renovations, this time on the waiting queue.
  • November 16, 2018: Disney reopened the attraction which now had a better queuing system.

Matterhorn Bobsleds Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Want to try the Matterhorn Bobsleds? First know these basic facts before you try out this ride.

Where is the Matterhorn Bobsleds located?

You can find the Matterhorn Bobsleds attraction in Fantasyland of Disneyland in Anaheim, California. You can spot it easily because the peaks are high enough that you can see it from anywhere in the theme park.

Is the ride available in other Disney theme parks?

Disneyland California takes pride in being the only Disney theme park with the Matterhorn Bobsled. There were news of the ride being adapted by other Disney parks but Disney did not give any confirmation.

Matterhorn Bobsleds Signage
Matterhorn Bobsleds Signage [Source: Disney]

What type of attraction is the Matterhorn Bobsleds?

The Matterhorn Bobsleds is a roller coaster that runs on two tracks. Since it sits between Tomorrowland and Fantasyland, each side has its own track.

How long is the Matterhorn Bobsleds ride?

The ride takes approximately two minutes and 15 seconds.

Is there a height requirement to be able to try the ride?

You have to be at least 42 inches or 107 cm to ride the Matterhorn Bobsleds.

Can children under 7 years old try the ride?

As long as the height requirement is reached, children under 7 years old can get on the ride. However, they must be accompanied by someone who is at least 14 years old.

Does the Matterhorn Bobsleds accept FastPass?

Yes, you can use your Disney FastPass for this ride

4 Interesting Facts About The Matterhorn Bobsleds

Check out these interesting facts about the Matterhorn Bobsleds.

Fun Fact No. 1: The Matterhorn Bobsleds was one of Disneyland’s three first E-Ticket rides.

During the early years of Disneyland, parkgoers had to buy individual tickets for the different attractions that they wanted to try.

Old Disneyland Ticket
Old Disneyland Ticket [Source: Jay Bilas]

Disney labeled the tickets A, B, C, D, E with the E tickets offering the most amazing experience.

The Matterhorn Bobsleds, together with the Disneyland Monorail and the Submarine Voyage, debuted in 1959. These three attractions became the first E-Ticket rides of the theme park.

Fun Fact No. 2: The ride’s Abominable Snowman Harold has a girlfriend in Florida.

Disney has another snow creature aside from Harold. The Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom in Florida has a Yeti that goes by the name Betty. 

They say Betty is Harold’s girlfriend! Cute, isn’t it?

Harold Of Matterhorn Bobsleds
Harold Of Matterhorn Bobsleds [Source: Disney]

Fun Fact No. 3: There is a basketball court on the Matterhorn.

Did you know that you can find a basketball half-court on the Matterhorn? This half-court is inside the structure above the coaster close to the peak. 

When Disney still allowed mountain climbers in their Matterhorn, these climbers would play in the said basketball court.

Disney eventually locked the court for everyone’s safety and relocated it. They say that the hoop and playing area still exists until this day.

Fun Fact No. 4: The Matterhorn Bobsleds is only in Disneyland.

As mentioned before, this ride is only available in Disneyland in California. Walt Disney World’s Space Mountain has tracks that are slightly similar to the Matterhorn Bobsleds but not entirely identical. There were plans to bring this ride to Florida but these remained as plans.

The Animal Kingdom has a roller coaster that follows the similar theme which is Expedition Everest. Riders enjoy a trip to the Himalayan mountains where they meet Harold’s girlfriend, Betty.

Expedition Everest At Walt DIsney World
Expedition Everest At Walt Disney World [Source: Disney]

Matterhorn Bobsleds: A Ride Worth Trying

The Matterhorn Bobsleds is a ride definitely worth trying when you visit Disneyland in California. Not only does it give you a thrill but it also takes you to another world – one with snow, ice, and an Abominable Snowman.

The next time you drop by Disneyland, be sure to run to Fantasyland and try this over-the-edge attraction!

Matterhorn Bobsleds: A Guide to Disneyland’s Iconic Ride Infographic
Matterhorn Bobsleds: A Guide to Disneyland’s Iconic Ride Infographic [Source: Visually/Scott Brown]
Matterhorn Bobsleds: A Guide to Disneyland’s Iconic Ride Pinterest Pin
Matterhorn Bobsleds: A Guide to Disneyland’s Iconic Ride Pinterest Pin

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