Road to the Ride: The Myth Inside the Matterhorn

Matterhorn Bobsleds hold a very special place in Disney history. In fact, as the first tubular steel coaster, it holds a special place in history in general. But the story of the Matterhorn is filled with rumors, none more prominent than the basketball court.

matterhorn 1960s

Walt and the Matterhorn

There’s a lot of history that’s directly associated with Walt at this special location. Built from the dirt that was dug up in the construction of Sleeping Beauty castle, this mountain wasn’t always a mountain. The dirt pile was called Holiday Hill, until Walt decided to cover it in snow and call it snow hill. But that changed when Walt visited Switzerland in 1959. He fell in love with the Matterhorn and brought to Snow Hill. On June 14, 1959, the Matterhorn Bobsleds were born.

matterhorn 1960s

The Birth of the Rumor

Any Disney cast member can tell you, there is a basketball court inside the top of the Matterhorn. It’s in the attic. It’s a long held belief that the Matterhorn was too tall. At the time, Anaheim had a city ordinance that prevented any structure, except a sports facility, from reaching a certain height. So Walt built the basketball court to obey the ordinance. The basketball court meant he could make the Matterhorn as tall as it needed to be.

matterhorn climbers

The Real Reason

Except none of that is true. Well, the basketball court is true. Sort of. It’s actually smaller than a regulation half court. It’s actually really just a small, cramped space with floor marketings, a backboard, and a rim. Not exactly a sports facility and definitely not a place to be having NBA games.

The Matterhorn was completed in 1959. But Anaheim didn’t have those supposed ordinances until the 1970s. And even then, it’s very questionable if such a trick would’ve actually worked. At least, not without several lawsuits that would be well documented in history.

The “court” is actually a rest area. During busy seasons, climbers are hired to scale the Matterhorn to entertain guests.  The original climbers used this attic area to prep and rest. One of the climbers had the idea to install the basketball rim and backboard. They used their makeshift court to pass the time when inclement weather or other conditions kept them from their scheduled climbs.

matterhorn climbers

The Court Today

The climbers unfortunately disappeared for six years, from 2006 to 2012. After the Matterhorn’s refurbishment in 2012, they were back, if only for a brief time. Still, they make their appearances every now and again, like when they arrived in 2015 to celebrate Disneyland’s 60th. When they’re around, they’re still using the basketball court.

But they aren’t the only ones. The Matterhorn is also the starting place for the flight to the castle before the fireworks celebration every night. Those cast members, who are setting up the flight and who are doing the flight themselves, have access to the basketball court each night. It’s kind of fun to think about Tink or Buzz playing basketball before soaring through the sky/falling with style.

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2 years ago

The Tinkerbell flight, still is the most magic single element in the night show…..
Despite ALL possible virtual tech.
NOTHING ever is so good , as just great real-reality effects …

2 years ago

thank you for this informative piece