A Short History of the Matterhorn Bobsled Ride
Anyone who has been to Disneyland is familiar with the unmistakable profile of the Matterhorn Bobsled Ride. This man-made mountain features two separate roller coasters whose tracks are intertwined, giving the rider a thrilling and thunderous journey down its slopes. But did you know that the creation of the Matterhorn was more of a defensive reaction than anything else?
In the Beginning
A long time ago, in a theme park far away, Walt Disney was overseeing the excavation of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. The leftover dirt from this construction was heaped up in a little used area between Tomorrowland and Fantasyland and was turned into a sort of park/picnic area with winding paths and park benches where patrons could rest and relax between rides.
Much to Disney’s chagrin this undesignated picnic area became quite popular with couples who took advantage of the solitude to spend a few minutes (or hours) alone. The reputation that resulted from this use didn’t fit in with Disney’s family oriented vision for Disneyland, which is why he insisted on turning the space into a ride instead of leaving it undesignated. However, the decision of what sort of attraction to put in this space took some time to develop.
At first the idea was to create a toboggan ride with real snow. Unfortunately, this idea was riddled with technical difficulties and met with some serious objections from engineers. However, after Walt Disney had taken a long vacation in Switzerland, the focus turned towards creating a bobsled coaster ride that would encircle and penetrate the hill. After a long period of designing it became a reality and the Matterhorn emerged as the first tubular steel coaster in the world.
Today’s Matterhorn bobsled ride is officially a part of Fantasyland and purchasing regular entry tickets or Park Hopper passes ensures that you are able to get up close and personal with this piece of American history.
Like all of Disneyland’s attractions, the Matterhorn Bobsled Ride receives regular maintenance and intermittent overhauls to ensure that its technology and artistic expression remains up to date as well as making certain that it remains up to code in regards to safety and accessibility.
Its first overhaul back in 1978 was anything but cheap. This major reconstruction turned what had been a rather stylized conceptual ride into a far more believable construct by adjusting much of the framework, including the interior of the mountain itself. It received another major update in 2012, mostly for technical updates, though its exterior was completely refurbished as well.
A Major Piece of Americana
The creation of Disneyland was an important milestone in American cultural history, and the Matterhorn Bobsled Ride is an iconic piece of that history. Like Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, this ride has become a childhood memory for hundreds of thousands of people around the world, and even today, when theme parks and thrilling roller coaster rides are a dime a dozen, this ride remains one of the best loved attractions of all time.