That’s right, a battle of the Disney mountains! One on the west coast, one on the east. It’s time for Matterhorn vs. Expedition Everest! Matterhorn Bobsleds is located between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland at Disneyland in California. Expedition Everest is located across the country in Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom park; it is the main attraction in the land themed after Asia. Without further ado, let’s start this Disney mountain battle!

Matterhorn Bobsleds

The Matterhorn Bobsleds attraction was built as part of a large Tomorrowland expansion. It was one of three new attractions added in 1959, along with the Submarine Voyage and the Disneyland Monorail. Matterhorn Mountain was the first of all the “Disney Mountains.”

Matterhorn was historically remarkable in many ways. First of all, it was the first steel roller coaster in the entire world. At the time, roller coasters were strictly made of wood. If you have ever ridden a wooden roller coaster, especially an old one, you’ll know how rickety and rough they are. The new steel roller coaster technology used on the Matterhorn made the ride a whole lot smoother. Yes, you read that right. Matterhorns used to be considered “smooth!”

Second of all, Matterhorn Bobsleds was the first “E-ticket” attraction at Disneyland. E-ticket attractions were the most thrilling rides at the park and required the most expensive ticket to ride. In other words, the Matterhorn was the first real thrill ride to come to the Disneyland Resort. It was also the first roller coaster in the world to have multiple cars on the track at one time. This increased rider capacity and efficiency. Finally, it was the first roller coaster to use water as a braking system at the end of the ride. These are some of the main things that will give Matterhorn an advantage in the battle of Matterhorn vs. Expedition Everest. But we’ll get to that.

Construction and Development

Walt Disney visited Switzerland shortly after Disneyland opened. Rumour has it that he loved the real Matterhorn so much that he sent a postcard to Imagineer Vic Greene. The postcard had a picture of the real Matterhorn mountain. Walt wrote only these four words on the card: “Vic, build this. -Walt.” Imagineers went to work on building the mountain in the old Holiday Hill section of the park. At first, Walt wanted to use real snow. But that is a little unrealistic in Southern California. Instead, they used white paint. Today, they use coloured beads that sparkle in the sunlight.

Matterhorn was built directly in the path of the Skyway. Instead of re-routing the Skyway, the Matterhorn was literally built around it. Imagineers did not even need to close the Skyway, not even for one day. This worked at the time but eventually contributed to the Skyway’s eventual closure.

At first, Matterhorn Bobsleds had no theme, besides bobsleds going down a mountain. In 1978 Imagineers refurbished the attraction and added more theming, including Harold—the abominable snowman. Harold was supposed to be included in the original ride, but there was not enough time to design, build, and add him to the attraction before its opening date.

Today, there are former bobsleds and Skyway buckets that appear to have been destroyed during the Wells Expedition scene—the first scene, with the debris in the snow. The Wells Expedition scene is named after Frank Wells, former President of the Walt Disney Company who died in a mountain climbing accident. In 2016, the crate labeled, “Wells Expedition” was removed. It was quickly returned though, after public outcry.

Matterhorn remained in Tomorrowland for around twenty years. Then, one day, it showed up on the Fantasyland map. It moved over a whole land, without technically moving at all! Matterhorn Bobsleds is completely unique to Disneyland in California. It has never been replicated in any other Disney Park around the world.

The Experience

Guests walk up to the tallest mountain in the park, covered in snow. As they get closer, they can hear the sounds of the winds echoing through the caves. A few steps closer guests can hear the sounds of bobsleds speeding through the mountain and the passengers squealing with enjoyment.

Once you reach a certain spot in line, a cast member sends you to either the Fantasyland side or the Tomorrowland side. Many people believe the Tomorrowland coaster track to be faster and more rickety and the Fantasyland side to be a little bit longer in duration. Every fan has a favourite side. Regardless, both sides are tons of fun. After waiting through the switch-backs of the queue accompanied by yodelling music, a cast member assigns your seat.

The Ride

The bobsled enters the dark mountain at the bottom level. Your bobsled starts climbing the hill inside. On each side of the tracks is an ice wall. This is where we first encounter the abominable snowman. He angrily tries to break the ice wall to get to us, but he is unsuccessful. A loud growl vibrates the mountain. We turn the corner to see the wreckage of what we can only assume were Harold’s most recent victims. Bobsleds and old Skyway Buckets have obviously been ripped apart by something menacing. And there are no signs of life. All this time, more growls are heard.

Now, the bobsled starts to speed up and the thrill begins. Through a long series of twists, turns, and drops, we barely escape the monster. We catch a glimpse of him three times throughout the ride. His large teeth and bright red eyes instil even more terror into our experience. He tries to climb through the holes of the mountain in order to capture us–and probably eat us. Luckily, our bobsleds are much faster than he is–likely thanks to his massive size! As the first “E-ticket” attraction, of course, it can be terrifying at times. However, once the pond water helps slow our bobsled, we know we are finally safe. Before unloading, guests hear the famous and often re-quoted “Remain seated please with your seat belt fastened. Permanecer sentados, por favor.” The reason why that became more popular than any other safety spiel? Nobody knows. It’s awesome nonetheless.

Expedition Everest

Expedition Everest (officially known as Expedition Everest– Legend of the Forbidden Mountain) is the 18th “Disney Mountain” ever built. You can experience it in Disney’s Animal Kingdom park in Florida. It can be found in the northeast corner of the land themed after Asia. The attraction is a thrilling, steel roller coaster that takes guests on a shortcut to Mount Everest. Unfortunately, things go awry when we encounter the yeti. More on that later. First, let’s dive into the history of Expedition Everest.


Disney’s Animal Kingdom park opened on April 22, 1998 (Earth Day). Although, it was not technically “finished.” No, there were not any corners cut. However, there were a few budget cuts. Originally, Imagineers planned to have three different themes in the park: animals that exist today, animals that existed a long time ago (Dinosaurs), and animals that never existed (mythical creatures).

Once things started coming together though, Disney accountants realized they had seriously underestimated the cost of keeping live animals healthy and happy in the park. As a result, some things needed to be cut. CEO Michael Eisner decided to put the land dedicated to mythical creatures–Beastly Kingdom–on hold until they had the funds to do it right. Without the Beastly Kingdom, though, there was a lack of thrill rides at Animal Kingdom at that time. There was not much they could do about it though until the finances were in their favor. Eventually, Beastly Kingdom had to be scratched altogether. The idea was replaced by Pandora–The World of Avatar. Before that though, Imagineers knew they needed a new thrill ride. When all hope seemed lost, our beloved Joe Rohde came to the rescue with Expedition Everest. And the rest–as they say–is history.

Construction and Development

Before we really figure out which is better–Matterhorn vs. Expedition Everest–we have some more ground to cover on the latter. One of the coolest parts about the development of Expedition Everest was that Joe Rohde and his team of Imagineers actually travelled to Asia to study the area around the Himalayan mountains. There, they visited several small villages, spoke with the locals, and even purchased real materials from them. They brought back more than 8,000 props to Walt Disney World. Some of these purchased materials can be found in the queue area today. That’s right, some of the camping and climbing equipment and evidence of the yeti you see while waiting in line are real.

Twenty-four different miniature design models were created before the best one was chosen for use. Then, a larger (six feet tall to be exact) model was built of that design and uploaded to a computer. That way, Imagineers could make changes to the design on the computer without creating an entirely different model. Without the help of the computer program, this process would normally take around three years. However, it only took about eighteen months this time.

We cannot discuss the innovative technology of Expedition Everest without mentioning the yeti itself. At the time of its development, it was the largest and fastest-moving audio-animatronic in the world. Standing at 25 feet tall, it has to be controlled by 19 actuators when functioning in “A mode” (meaning the yeti’s full capacity and movement). Unfortunately, A mode is no longer possible. A few months after the ride’s opening, the foundation that holds the yeti was severely damaged. This meant that using the yeti in “A mode” would only make things worse. Instead, the yeti now sit still while a strobe light flashes in front of it, giving the illusion of movement. This is called “B mode,” but it is more commonly referred to by Disney fans as “Disco Yeti.”

The Experience

Walking around Asia at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park, you catch a glimpse of the tallest peak in all of Florida. The three snow-capped mountains are impossible to miss and irresistible to any thrill-seeker. Walk toward the man-made mountain range and hop in line. On your journey to the loading dock, you will come across authentic relics from real Himalayan villagers, yeti footprints, accounts of first-hand encounters with the beast, and messages from the locals warning you not to visit the Forbidden Mountain. Apparently, we are refusing to listen to them because we want to get to Everest quickly. But the fastest way there is through the Forbidden Mountain, which is famously guarded by the monstrous and massive yeti. When it comes to Matterhorn vs. Expedition Everest, Everest might have the upper hand when it comes to queuing areas. But it is not time to decide that yet.

The Ride

Once on board the train, you take a seemingly relaxing trip to the first hill. This hill is not too tall, and the drop is fun but nothing crazy…yet (or should I say “yeti”?). We spend another couple of seconds driving around the beautiful mountain bottom before coming to the second hill. This time, we climb a lot higher through a tunnel donned with murals, sacred symbols, and other things dedicated to the yeti. The overall feeling becomes more ominous. But surely, things will be okay, right?

Our train keeps climbing the hill even outside the tunnel. Look around to see the vastness of Animal Kingdom Park below you. We start going downhill a little bit through snowy caves. Everything seems to be going as planned. That is until you reach a peak with broken tracks. The yeti has destroyed our only path to Everest. We are trapped…or, are we? About six seconds after the train stops at the broken tracks, it starts moving backwards through total darkness! Just like the shift in train tracks, the tone of the ride has shifted as well. Now, we are racing through the mountain, unsure of where we are going and what is to come.

After stopping abruptly in a dark cave, we see the shadow of the yeti destroying more train tracks with an angry roar. We should have listened to the local villagers, but now it is too late. We start careening forward again, through the grassy landscape and icy tunnels. Finally, we encounter the yeti for real. Lights flash and passengers scream as we barely escape the clutches of the yeti! Having barely escaped with our lives, we safely arrive back at the unloading dock. Phew!

Competition Categories

  • Atmosphere: The “atmosphere” category encompasses the overall feeling of the attraction based on the music, decorations, etc. and how immersive they are. The atmosphere for both attractions is very similar. The theme music and sound effects for Matterhorn Bobsleds are more immersive, but the queue of Everest is more immersive. It is a really close call, so we actually decided to give this category a tie.
  • Story: The “story” category is pretty self-explanatory. How creative is the story? Is it interesting enough? Like we said before, in terms of the storytelling in the queue, Expedition Everest definitely has the advantage. Everest also has a more clear story in the queue, and once on the attraction the stories almost seem interchangeable between the two rides. So, we give this one to Expedition Everest.
  • Experience: For the “experience” category, we look at how people react to the attraction and whether it is generally liked. Even though we love it, Matterhorn has been known to cause back and neck pain since it can be pretty jerky. Everest is far smoother. So we give this one to Everest.
  • Thrill: The “thrill” category is self-explanatory. Which was the most exciting? Obviously, this is another difficult one to call. Both rides are thrilling. However, we feel like Everest has a lot of downtime where the train is moving slowly with a few thrilling moments thrown in towards the end. But Matterhorn is going at high speeds the entire time. The Matterhorn animatronics actually work, but Everest also adds the thrill of extra height. It seems like they cancel each other out in a lot of ways. So we call it a tie.
  • Technology: The “technology” category covers how up-to-date and innovative the technical elements of the ride are: the projections, the ride system, etc. The use of technology in both attractions is pretty similar as of right now. Both attractions feature live animatronics, projections, and props. With that said, however, without the technological advances made by Matterhorn Bobsleds in the first place, Everest just would not exist. Plus, Matterhorn’s animatronics are fully functional while Everest’s yeti is stuck in “B mode.” Matterhorn walked so Everest could run. For those reasons, Matterhorn takes this category.
  • Show: “Show” is all about the literal show itself–including the queue, pre-show, and ride show. Easy. Expedition Everest, for the queue alone.
  • Longevity: For this category, we look at how well the attraction has or will age after several years. We gave this one to Matterhorn. Simply put: it has proven itself to be a classic and beloved attraction for several decades. New changes to the ride only enhance the attraction. But with Everest, the “Disco Yeti” is a major problem in need of fixing that is basically impossible. Yes, it could be fixed eventually and we hope it is. However, Matterhorn has never had a malfunction this bad that lasted basically its entire lifetime. So, Matterhorn takes this one with little contest.