Disneyland Secrets: Matterhorn

Secrets of Disneyland’s Matterhorn

The manmade mountain, 14-stories tall, is hollow.  What’s inside?


Believe it  or not, near the top of the Matterhorn above the bobsleds roller coaster is a regulation basketball half-court.

On a recent trip, when the Matterhorn Bobsleds were experiencing a  malfunction, a Disneyland manager told the tale of the origin of the strange basketball court.  When Walt Disney conceived of the Matterhorn in 1956, he learned of an Orange County zoning ordinance that limits the height of amusement attractions. But by including a basketball court, the structure could be classified as a “sports facility,” exempt from the height limitation.

But according to urban myth buster Snopes, which shows a photo of the basketball court, the story of the zoning loophole is only fanciful fun.  Orange County lacked height ordinances for structures  before the 1970s.  It turns out the basketball hoop was set up for climbers to pass the time.

The Matterhorn also served to camouflage the central pylon of the bucket-shaped Skyway tram ride (← click to see video)  which passed through the center of the mountain through cave-like holes connecting the Fantasyland and Tomorrowland sides. Skyway riders could see down into the Matterhorn’s interior as they glided through.

 In 1978, along with ice caves, the Matterhorn got a new tenant, an Abominable Snowman by the name of Harold.

There are actually three Harolds, three similar Audio-Animatronic figures that roar at the bobsledders.

Photo of Disneyland's Matterhorn caves

Following the closure of the Skyway in 1994, the cavernous holes through which the Skyway buckets had traveled were partially filled in, making way for a glowing crystal grotto.

Since internal access to the mountain remains locked for safety reasons, the Matterhorn basketball court was accessible only to the mountain climbers who can play between climbs.

Disneyland Secret MatterhornThe Matterhorn basketball court was relocated slightly to install Tinkerbell’s flight equipment and dressing room in 2005 prior to the Disneyland’s 50th anniversary celebration.  The hoop and playing area remain intact. There is a cast member break room inside the mountain at the base.

So there you have it, the secret basketball court in Disneyland’s Matterhorn is real.

Here’s a useful secret when you ride the Matterhorn Bobsleds  

The Bobsleds run on two separate tracks; one is slightly longer (2:26 minutes) than the other  (2:07 minutes).   As you face the entrance get in the line for the track on the right and enjoy 19 extra seconds of riding the Matterhorn.  Warning: The left track ride is shorter because it goes faster!

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13 thoughts on “Disneyland Secrets: Matterhorn”

  1. Dearest Astro G,

    Guess what, I’ve never been to Disneyland . . but I hope to go someday. It’s brilliant that Walt Disney found a loophole around the zoning law (and good to know that a “sports facility” height has no bounds . . you never know when this information comes in handy, esp. for superheroes). Speaking of holes, here’s one place I have frequented often, Niagara Falls (also a tribute to Stephen Colbert): I am a Hole (and so can you!)

    Take good care,

    1. Hi Sue! I know what you mean! The trick is to go on an overcast day in winter, and use the fast pass machines (you get a ticket, wander around, and go to the front of the line at an appointed time). They changed the cars on the Matterhorn, which is now very uncomfortable to ride. I’ve heard numerous complaints. Sigh.
      AstroGremlin recently posted..Walt Disney BiographyMy Profile

  2. We rode on the Matterhorn new sleds yesterday 8/31/12. The new sleds are too constrictive. It is very painful to my ankles, knees and hips. The new sled confines my shoes into tight foot-holds. I was in the rear-seat. I wear a size 12 shoes and I am 5 ft.,11in. tall. I could not adjust them in the tight footholds. I had to force myself down at the seat-belt checkpoint. I was in a panic and immediately realized my hips and knees were being stretched and in considerable pain. I was in pain the whole ride because my knees and hips were pulling apart my joints. Afterwords I hobbled around the park for over an hour in pain. I saw another guy who looked taller, and barely fitted in the front-seat. He was much thinner than me. I will miss that ride. The new sled design are now way too constrictive!

    1. Henry, yours is the second complaint on this website. I hope Disneyland Imagineers are listening and that they understand that these comments have been presented in an open forum, consistent with all American freedoms, voluntarily, by individual park goers and expressing what Walt Disney would have wanted to hear: honest customer comments on their experiences at the happiest place on Earth. Thank you for speaking up!

  3. We went to the Happiest Place on Earth yesterday, 8/19/12, Complaint on something you need to fix. We rode the Matterhorne which just about stopped our day of fun. My son-in-law who has a nerve disorder RSD, had a very painful experience. We all rode and couldn’t believe the roughness of the new seats. We all bounced around and he could barely walk the rest of the day. I doubt you would redesign the seats, since you’ve recently done that,so it really would be wise to put a warning sign stating caution for bad backs, heart problems, ect. We are all Deluxe Passport holders and were very disappointed in not having warning sign. Thanks for listening Mary Jo Peysar.

    1. Sorry to hear of your experience, Mary Jo. I know that the seats were changed recently. Based on your experience, the Happiest Place on Earth should look into this! Of course I have no official connection with Disneyland but hope your message finds its way to the Imagineers.

  4. This website is great. I am gonna put this in my bookmarks before I lose the link, I don’t think I’ll ever find my way back here again otherwise!

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