YesterlandInside the Old Matterhorn
Skyway thru Glacier Grotto
Photo of Matterhorn exterior, with Skyway entering
There were two ways to see the inside of the Matterhorn—Bobsled or Skyway.

The Yesterland article about the Old Matterhorn says, “Though beautifully finished on the outside, the interior of the Old Matterhorn is nothing special to look at. It’s obvious that you’re in a steel-frame structure.”

This led to discussion at the Yesterland Discussion Forum (provided by MiceChat). One poster asked, “Do you, or does anyone, have any pictures of the interior of the Old Matterhorn? I’d love to see the wide open spaces.”

Excerpt of Disneyland map from 1962
The 1962 Disneyland souvenir map showed the “Skyway Thru Glacier Grotto.”

My answer was not encouraging. I replied, “I suppose that there must have been some people who tried to a snap a picture from the Skyway as it passed through the hollow mountain. However, it was rather dark in there, and most film was not very ‘fast’ in those days. A flash bulb or Flashcube would not have helped.” It was a long-winded way of answering, “no.”

I was wrong.

When the article was brought to the attention of Imagineer Tom Morris, he recalled taking some snapshots as a guest back in the early 1970s. As a pre-teen park-goer at Disneyland in 1971, Tom used an ordinary Kodak Instamatic camera with ordinary “126” cartridge film to take three surprisingly good pictures. According to Tom, “I must have been intrigued with capturing on film what had always been just a fleeting experience on the ride.”

Although park maps promised a “Glacier Grotto” within the Matterhorn, the reality was less impressive.

Photo of Matterhorn interior showing lift hills
The lift hills headed toward large openings at the top.

The photograph above shows the lift hills. There have always been two similar (but not truly mirror-image) tracks. The left track loads from the Tomorrowland side and the right track loads from the Fantasyland side.

Before the 1978 redo of the mountain’s interior, guests entered a large, hollow void. Although the structural beams were covered to resemble rock, it was still obvious to guests that they were in a structure built of steel beams of various lengths and angles. There were wooden stairways, catwalks and hand railings for service access throughout the interior.

Photo of Matterhorn interior with bobsled ascending a lift hill
A Bobsled heads up a lift hill.

The light within the mountain came from the openings in the rock-like “skin” of the structure—especially from the large openings for the Skyway on either side of the mountain. Despite those openings, the interior was dim during the day and quite dark at night. From the top of the lift hill at night, there was an impressive view of the bright lights of Main Street and the motels around Disneyland.

Photo of Matterhorn interior with Skyway openings
A Skyway “bucket” enters the hollow mountain.

In the final picture, take a look at the X-shaped structural beams to the left of the Skyway “bucket” and the horizontal beams above and below the X. That’s an example of how the interior wasn’t very convincing as a natural grotto.

Nobody that I know who visited the Matterhorn before 1978 felt cheated by the less-than-glacier-like space within the faux mountain. When passing through in the Skyway, it was fun to have a brief glimpse of the Bobsleds within the hollow space and to hear the screams of their riders.

When riding the Matterhorn Bobsleds ride, we were too focused on the ride itself. In those days, the ride was smoother than it is today, and the turns and (especially) the dips were more fun because the track was engineered for single-car Bobsleds, not tandem Bobsleds. There was a feeling of height—after all, you were high above the floor of the Matterhorn, not enveloped by “ice” tunnels.

The Matterhorn of today is a more immersive, more theatrical experience—in this regard, it’s more like the kind of experience we expect from Disney. The Abominable Snowman is a welcome addition. (The 1978 advertising campaign featured the Snowman and asked the question, “What’s gotten into the Matterhorn at Disneyland?”) I’m glad the Matterhorn was upgraded in 1978.

But if Disney management ever wants to make another change to the Matterhorn, I have a wish: reopen the “cave openings” in the side of the Matterhorn at the top of the lift hills to restore the brief but spectacular views of the lights of Disneyland and Anaheim.


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© 2007-2008 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Last updated July 18, 2008.

Photo of Skyway entering the Matterhorn: by Frank T. Taylor, courtesy of Chris Taylor.
Scanned image of a small section of the 1962 Disneyland souvenir map: Copyright 1962 Walt Disney Productions (The Walt Disney Company), and is included here for historical illustration.
Photo of Matterhorn interior showing lift hills: 1971 by Tom Morris.
Photo of Matterhorn interior with bobsled ascending a lift hill: 1971 by Tom Morris.
Photo of Matterhorn interior with Skyway openings: 1971 by Tom Morris.