The Matterhorn always looks wrong to me without giant holes in it to let the Skyway through. I suppose that’s because I’ve ridden the Skyway considerably more often, not having gotten into roller coasters until just a couple of years before moving away from LA—and honestly, I always liked Space Mountain better, anyway. But the Matterhorn holds considerable significance to Disney park history—and is not insignificant in the history of roller coasters in general, come to that.
When Disneyland opened, it had no roller coasters. However, all that dirt from the digging of the castle moat had to go somewhere. Initially, it went into a giant pile. It was landscaped, and benches were put on it, and Walt saw it as a place for families to have picnics. In fact what it became was a place for couples to make out after dark. Which Walt was less pleased with. Walt thought maybe they could install a toboggan ride using real snow, but that wasn’t in any way feasible. In Anaheim.
A few years after the park opened, Walt was in Switzerland filming the movie Third Man on the Mountain and was so impressed with the beauty of the mountain that he sent a postcard of it to Imagineer Vic Greene with just the inscription, “Vic. Build this. Walt.” Thanks to improvements in coaster technology, the ride would open as something nearly resembling Walt’s toboggan idea—in fact, as the first tubular steel roller coaster in the world. Visitors would be pulled up to about the middle of the mountain and speed down and around it back to the bottom.
Not that the part of the mountain that isn’t ride is fully unused, you understand, and it isn’t just that there have been climbers on it off and on for the attraction’s entire history. No, it is a well established fact that there’s a basketball half court inside the mountain, apparently built for relaxation for the climbers. The inside also holds the motor, of course, and the equipment for Tinkerbell’s flight off the Matterhorn before the fireworks start up. At the base, there’s a break area presumably for ride staff. And, of course, Harold the Yeti has been hanging around the mountain since the ’70s. He’s been updated, but he’s still hanging around the mountain.
They’ve redeisgned the cars twice over the years, and I have to tell you I much prefer the side-by-side seating to the “sit on someone’s lap” seating. That may be another reason the Matterhorn has never been my preferred Disneyland mountain—it may be more authentic to the bobsled experience, but that doesn’t mean I have any fondness for it on a practical level. Especially when I was visiting it with a male friend; that got awkward.