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The Magic Years
Disney through the eyes of teens
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Adrienne Krock, editor
The Matterhorn Bobsleds - The First Disneyland Mountain

Disneyland "mountains" are the primary locations for thrill rides. Every mountain inside the Disneyland Resort, such as Grizzly Peak, Splash Mountain and Big Thunder, contains an incredible thrill attraction that will leave you breathless and full of excitement. The first Disneyland mountain to open to the public was Matterhorn Mountain, containing the Matterhorn Bobsleds. This E-ticket attraction takes passengers soaring through a crisp, icy mountain through windswept tunnels and fog banks, and includes two or three encounters with an abominable snowman.

Walt Disney first conceived his idea for the Matterhorn while in Switzerland observing the filming location for Third Man on the Mountain. He could not help but notice the gallant cloud-covered peak above him. In 1959, a 1/100th-scale re-creation of the original snow-capped mountain opened between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland.

Matterhorn Mountain contains 500 tons of cement and rises over 147 feet from the ground. The Matterhorn Bobsleds attraction was the first ride that used steel tube rails and urethane wheels. The Matterhorn Mountain, like Sleeping Beauty Castle and Splash Mountain, uses forced perspective. Full-grown trees and flowers were planted along the base of the mountain while stunted spruce trees were planted on the mountain’s slope at the timberline. This illusion makes the mountain seem larger than it really is.

The Matterhorn Bobsleds was the first ride to permit more than one car in action at once. The original Matterhorn was incredibly themed on the outside, but rather bland and hollow on the inside. After climbing a steep hill the rest of the ride took place in a wide open space. After the lift-hill and a breathtaking birds-eye view of Main Street USA, the rest of the steel roller coaster's ride consisted of drops, dips, and a splashdown in an alpine lake. For a view inside of the Matterhorn, visitors could ride the Skyway through the center of the mountain.

The Matterhorn was remodeled in 1978 to the form with which we are more familiar today. Imagineers added more scenic surprises inside the mountain, and the descent became more exhilarating and exciting. With the redesign, bobsleds traveled through a series of "ice caves" rather than a hollow mountain, making the ride more realistic. Switching from a single four-passenger bobsled to a two-car vehicle doubled capacity. The abominable snowman made its debut, appearing a couple of times throughout the course of the ride.

Prior to a rehab earlier this year, the queues stretched around either side of the Matterhorn Mountain. This allowed guests standing in line to have a more scenic view of the Fantasyland dark rides or the Tomorrowland rides and lagoon. It also provided a quick and easy way for guests to determine which line had a shorter wait. T rehab reconfigured the line so that it wraps around continuously in front of the the chalet, the ride's main loading area. This seems to crowd the surrounding area.

There are two different tracks on the Matterhorn Bobsleds. Each track is unique. The one on the right of the boarding area is the Fantasyland side. I think that this track feels tamer than the other. The Fantasyland side offers an extraordinary view of Fantasyland and "it’s a small world," which looks wonderful in the holiday season at night. The track also dives under the wooden bridge and, after splashdown, makes a quick trip back into the mountain. The other track is the Tomorrowland side, which I think is somewhat rougher and faster. It offers a few good views of the Tomorrowland lagoon, but none as spectacular as the Fantasyland view. Most of the ride takes place in tunnels. Overall each side has its advantages.

The Matterhorn Mountain is the predecessor of all Disneyland park mountains. The second to open to the public was Space Mountain, an exhilarating thrill ride in the dark, in 1977. The third was the mine train roller coaster, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. This mountain took over two years to create, and resides on the old location of the two-acre Painted Desert. The fourth mountain is Splash Mountain, a log-flume attraction that travels through scenes from Song of the South. This attraction included a 52-foot waterfall drop in the conclusion and opened in 1989.

The fifth and final mountain opened up in the resort was not in Disneyland park, but across the esplanade in Disney’s California Adventure park. Grizzly Peak is home to Grizzly River Run, a whitewater rafting expedition. This attraction includes two major drops, including a 22-foot spinning fall.

No matter how many more "mountains" or thrill rides are created in Disneyland Resort however, Matterhorn Mountain will always be known as the first Disney mountain, and is certainly one of a kind.

- Christopher


Coming Soon:
"Aida - The Timeless Love Story"


Christopher's Disneyland Trivia: Before 1972, Disneyland Today guide maps listed the Matterhorn Bobsleds as a ride in Tomorrowland. After 1972, the guide maps moved the ride over to Fantasyland, where it remains today.


Have any questions, comments or suggestions for future columns? Drop me a line at coolkids@mouseplanet.com. I'd really enjoy hearing from you!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Hi!
My name is Christopher.

I am thirteen years old and live with my family in Southern California. I am currently a high school student, and an avid fan of Disneyland Resort. Other than visiting the "Happiest Place On Earth," I have numerous hobbies, the most significant of which is acting.

Acting has always been a major hobby of mine. I have been participating in numerous plays, movies and productions all of my life, and hope to eventually accomplish my dreams of becoming a famous actor. Some of my recent works include productions of The King and I, Shakespeare- Enough Already, and Ebeneezer. Other than acting, I enjoy playing the alto saxophone for my high school jazz band, playing the keyboard / piano, listening to music (especially the Rent soundtrack), and visiting the Disneyland Resort.

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