Yesterland
The Old Matterhorn
Prepare to race down the chilling slopes of
the Old Matterhorn—the pre-1978 Matterhorn

Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 1969

Your long wait in line is finally over. No more listening to recorded yodeling and messages advising you—“for expediency in loading”—to look at overhead signs for proper seating arrangements.


Did you look overhead? Your bobsled has two single-file seats, but holds four guests. The larger guest should sit against the backrest—and will be the backrest for the smaller guest. It’s a rather cozy arrangement. No wonder teenage boys like to take their dates on this ride.

Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland

Photo by Charles R. Lympany, 1959, courtesy of Chris Taylor

A bobsled that looks like a bobsled

You’ve boarded your bobsled. Latch your seat belt. You’re on you way to thrills!

As on an old-fashioned roller coaster, you go clickety-click up a steep ramp in the large, hollow mountain. Though beautifully finished on the outside, the interior of the Old Matterhorn is nothing special to look at. It’s obvious that you’re in a steel-frame structure. At the top of the ramp, enjoy a brief but spectacular view of the lights of Main Street, U.S.A. through one of the many openings in the mountain.

Now the fun really begins. You take a series of quick dips and hairpin turns, ending with a splash in an Alpine lake. Great ride!

Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland

Photo by Fred M. Nelson Sr., 1959

Zipping in front of a waterfall

Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland

Photo by Charles R. Lympany, 1959, courtesy of Chris Taylor

Mountain lake level

Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland

Photo by Roger J. Runck, 1959, courtesy of Robin Runck

The other way to enter the Matterhorn

For a tame way to see the Matterhorn (unless you’re afraid of heights), try the Skyway, which passes through a pair of large holes on either side of the mountain.


The Matterhorn Bobsleds attraction opened at Disneyland on June 14, 1959. It was known for its thrills—and its long lines.

What is the Matterhorn doing in Yesterland? After all, the attraction is still running and still very popular. The answer is that the current Matterhorn is quite different than it was in 1959.

Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland

Photos (left) by Photo by Charles R. Lympany, 1959, courtesy of Chris Taylor, and (right) by Allen Huffman, 2002

Matterhorn from the Hub, 1959 (left) and 2002 (right)

Disney’s Swiss mountain used to be a lot more like swiss cheese—full of holes. Some holes were filled in soon after the Matterhorn opened. The track ran too close to what Jungle Cruise skippers call the “back side of water.”

Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland

Photo by Paul Groves, 1958

Tomorrowland with a Skyway support tower on Holiday Hill, where the Matterhorn would be built

Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 1969

Tomorrowland with the Matterhorn where the Skyway support tower once stood

Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2000

Tomorrowland and the Matterhorn after the removal of the Skyway in 1994

Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland

Photo by Charles R. Lympany, 1959, courtesy of Chris Taylor

Matterhorn from the Submarine Lagoon, 1959

Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2004

Matterhorn from the Submarine Lagoon, 2004

Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2004

Tandem bobsled trains with a capacity of eight guests per train

More holes were filled in when the Matterhorn Bobsleds attraction was updated in 1978. At that time, the experience of riding the Matterhorn Bobsleds changed substantially:

The inside was changed from a large, open space into a network of “ice caves.” Several scenes of the Abominable Snowman were added. The single-car, four-passenger bobsleds were replaced by two-car, eight-passenger bobsleds, which (along with new computer controls) doubled the ride capacity—and shortened the waits.

And that first great view was eliminated because the opening was filled in.

After the removal of the Skyway in late 1994, the Matterhorn was again remodeled. The space previously used by the Skyway became a glacier grotto.

Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

Still cozy seating

Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2003

“Cast of Footprint Discovered by Matterhorn Expedition, South Slope, May 27, 1978”

Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2018

The Abominable Snowman at the top of the lift hill

Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland

Photos by Allen Huffman, 1998

Wells Expedition scene, a tribute to Frank Wells (1932-1994)

In 1995, Disneyland added a tribute to Frank Wells, the accomplished mountain climber and highly respected President of The Walt Disney Company, who died in a helicopter accident on Easter Sunday, 1994.

Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2017

Newest bobsled trains

On June 15, 2012, after a refurbishment of more than five months, Matterhorn Bobsleds reopened with new bobsled trains. Each guest had an individual seat and a headrest, so the capacity of the trains dropped from eight guests to six.

No more cozy seating.

The Matterhorn Bobsleds attraction can claim numerous “firsts.”

  • First thrill ride in Disneyland;
  • First tubular steel track roller coaster in the world;
  • First roller coaster with multiple cars on the same track (made possible through individual braking zones);
  • First roller coaster built by Arrow Development (later Arrow Dynamics), which went on to become a leading, worldwide supplier of roller coasters.

When it opened in 1959, the 147-foot tall Matterhorn claimed the title of tallest manmade structure in Orange County, California. It lost the title when high-rise office buildings began to appear in Orange County in the 1960s and 1970s.

For a while, three attractions at Disney’s California Adventure exceeded the height of the Matterhorn—the Maliboomer, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, and the Sun Wheel. The Maliboomer has been removed. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is now Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: BREAKOUT! The Sun Wheel became Mickey’s Fun Wheel and is now Pixar Pal-A-Round.

Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland

Scanned images from from Disneyland Guide Summer 1970 and Spring 1972 © Walt Disney Productions

Matterhorn in Tomorrowland, 1970 / Matterhorn in Fantasyland, 1972

Did you know that the Matterhorn moved from Tomorrowland to Fantasyland around 1971? No, they didn’t use lots of casters and a really strong tractor. The Matterhorn wasn’t moved physically.

From 1965 through 1976, Disneyland guests received 4-inch-by-6-inch Disneyland Guide booklets, sponsored by INA, the Insurance Company of North America. Through 1970 the booklets listed Matterhorn Bobsleds under Tomorrowland. By 1972, Matterhorn Bobsleds had moved to Fantasyland, where it remains on current Disneyland guide maps.

During the 1960s, there seemed to be official uncertainty about exactly where the Matterhorn belonged. For 1961, the back cover of the glossy souvenir book, Walt Disney’s Guide to Disneyland, listed Matterhorn Bobsleds under Fantasyland. However, inside the same book, the ride was pictured in the book’s Tomorrowland section.

Some of the confusion might be because the Matterhorn straddles the boundary of Tomorrowland and Fantasyland. The ride has always had two tracks, commonly called the Tomorrowland side and the Fantasyland side. And, if you think about it, the ride really doesn’t belong in the World of Tomorrow or in the Land of Classic Stories of Childhood.

But, in the end, that doesn’t matter. The Matterhorn was a welcome addition to Disneyland in 1959, no matter what land it was in. After more than 60 years, Matterhorn Bobsleds remains a unique attraction found at no other Disney park in the world.


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Updated January 10, 2020.