Walt Disney and the Matterhorn Model

Looking Back at the Matterhorn Bobsleds As it Turns 65 at Disneyland 

The Matterhorn Bobsleds turned 65 years old today. This iconic Disneyland attraction continues to thrill guests as they race down the icy slopes of this recreation of the Matterhorn Mountain. As this attraction celebrates its 65th anniversary, Daps Magic took a look at the history of this attraction, the submarines, and also the Monorail in the form of the most recent episode of Daps Magic (the Podcast). Disney also shared a more in-depth look at this attraction that shares its story through photos and captions. Take a look at this story as shared by the Disney Parks Blog here:

Walt and Lilly in Switzerland, photo from the Walt Disney Family Museum

Walt to Imagineers: “Build This” 

The idea for the iconic Matterhorn Bobsleds really started during a 1950s trip to Switzerland.  

As many of you know, Walt and his wife Lillian enjoyed Switzerland, as you can see in the above classic photo from the Walt Disney Family Museum. Walt fell in love with the country’s breathtaking landscape, especially the Matterhorn mountain – known as the “jewel of the Swiss Alps.” 

In 1958, when Walt was in Switzerland, the giant, jagged tooth-shaped Matterhorn mountain — as well as the Disney film, “Third Man of the Mountain” (being filmed at the Matterhorn) — delivered a flash of inspiration. 

During the trip, the often-recalled story goes that Walt sent a postcard back home to his Disney Imagineers featuring a picture of the mountain and the words “BUILD THIS” on the back. 

Walt Disney with a model of the Matterhorn Bobsleds Disneyland attraction

Plans to bring this mountain to California began after Walt’s Switzerland trip – as you can see above in this vintage photo of Walt with a model of the attraction.  

While Matterhorn mountain towers over all that surrounds it in Switzerland at nearly 14,700 feet, it was determined that the Disneyland version would be built to roughly 1/100th scale, or 147 feet.  

Initially, Walt asked his designers to consider transforming Holiday Hill (a small mound between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland) into Snow Hill, which would feature real snow. As the project grew, Snow Hill became the proposed Snow Mountain, and then eventually – Matterhorn mountain.

Close up of Matterhorn mountain - Matterhorn Bobsleds, Disneyland attraction

Matterhorn Bobsleds Attraction Makes History

At opening on June 14, 1959, the world had never seen anything like the Matterhorn Bobsleds. The Disneyland attraction was the first roller coaster in the world to use a tubular steel track and a unique electronic dispatch system that allowed more than one car at a time to be on the track.

It was an immediate game-changer and set the standard for modern-day roller coasters.

Exterior of Matterhorn Bobsleds, Disneyland attraction

The attraction was part of the first major expansion at Disneyland since the park’s debut in 1955.  

During the design and construction, Walt and Disney Imagineers wanted guests to be able to enjoy the view of the Matterhorn, similar to how someone would view it in Switzerland, so a unique station with a view was created where you wait to board the bobsleds. 

Clock tower of Matterhorn Bobsleds, Disneyland attraction

For the attraction, Imagineers also created a picturesque tower, inspired by a famous clock tower near Switzerland’s Matterhorn mountain. Besides the mountain itself, the clock tower is likely the most famous sight in the area, and it added a familiar scene of Switzerland’s famed chalets to Disneyland. 

Shields at f Matterhorn Bobsleds, Disneyland attraction

In this photo of the attraction from the archives, you’ll notice shields representing the cantons, or states, in Switzerland.  

The opposite side of the building has fanciful alpine-style cutouts edged in brightly colored paints. The design features colors and motifs found in traditional Swiss embroidery designs. 

Mountaineering supplies and treasures scene in Matterhorn Bobsleds, Disneyland attraction

If you’ve experienced it, you know you swoop in and out of shadowy caves along jagged rocky ledges, darting through snowy chutes and by frozen precipices before splashing down into an alpine lake.  

And there are historical details to see, including mountaineering supplies and collected treasures from the past. There’s also a tribute to Frank Wells — the former President and Chief Operating Officer of The Walt Disney Company — to spot while whizzing through the Matterhorn caverns. 

Abominable Snowman of Matterhorn Bobsleds, Disneyland attraction

Of course, there’s the Abominable Snowman — a fan-favorite since being added to the attraction in 1978. When he received a transformation in 2015, Walt Disney Imagineering wanted to ensure that the mountain’s most famous resident would maintain a realistic look, consulting with an anthropologist.  

Flower fields outside of Matterhorn Bobsleds, Disneyland attraction

You can conquer Matterhorn Bobsleds and its mythic monster this summer at Disneyland park. Here are 2024 details on what’s happening and how you can save on a Disneyland Resort trip from our earlier story. 

Sign for Matterhorn Bobsleds, Disneyland attraction

We hope you enjoyed this fun look at the Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland. The iconic attraction is truly one-of-a-kind — no other Disney park can claim a Matterhorn mountain!  

For even more Matterhorn fun, check out Daps Magic’s Pizza Planet Truck guide to see where a Pizza Planet Truck is hidden on the Matterhorn during Pixar Fest! What do you think of the story of the Matterhorn? What side do you like to ride on when racing down the slopes of the mountain? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!