Not long ago I tried to compare the Splash Mountain in Disneyland to the one at the Magic KingdomBoth are based on real world locations

Expedition Everest is set in lowlands surrounding Mount Everest. The Kali Gandaki region in Nepal influences the village of Serka Zong. The Imagineers use forced perspective to make the mountain peaks soar with the tallest peak being the nearby fictional "Forbidden Mountain" where the attraction is based and Mount Everest is in the background.

The Matterhorn Bobsleds is based on the famous and distinctive mountain in Switzerland. Walt was in Zermatt visiting the set of the 1958 Disney movie Third Man on the Mountain and fell in love with the little ski resort. He liked it so much he tried to build his own ski resort in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California in the Mineral King area (See The Mineral King Story
Both pushed the state-of-the-art of roller coaster technology at the time they were built

Expedition Everest

Photo courtesy of (If you don't know Yesterland, take a look today, it is amazing!)
The Matterhorn Bobsleds was the first tubular steel coaster. Every tubular steel roller coaster can trace its roots back to the Matterhorn (and Arrow Dynamics who developed it with Disney). The mountain was multi-functional. Inside was a tower for the Skyway. In fact, hiding the tower was the functional problem Walt was trying to solve by building the mountain to begin with.
Both mountains tower over their surrounding environments
Expedition Everest is almost 200 feet tall and "the tallest mountain in the state of Florida" as the Disney folks like to say.

Matterhorn Bobsleds are set within a 147-foot tall structure. The Matterhorn was one of the tallest structures in Orange County for many years.
Both have inhabitants

Expedition Everest has the Yeti. After an incredible amount of research, many trips to Tibetan cultural regions, and working with zoologists, the Imagineers where able to locate a very special beast and bring him to Florida. He even gets his own museum. This creature was the highlight of many promotional films. However, he is rarely spotted in the wild today.

The Matterhorn
Both were seen as more than just another new attraction
Expedition Everest was the answer they came up with and has been a wildly successful addition to the resort.

The MatterhornABC broadcast on June 15, 1959 and it is an amazing artifact of this historic day. This show is available on Walt Disney Treasures Your Host Walt Disney DVD.

The Matterhorn is the mother of all steel roller coasters. For that reason alone, we should all look to its peak and bow in respect. The fact its inspiration was the need to cover up the unattractive tower that held up the Skyway always impressed me. And it sits on the dirt from the moat in front of the castle that was once know as Holiday Hill. I understand that back in the day before the Matterhorn was built, this was quite the place for those hormone-charged 1950s teenagers to make out.

The Tomorrowland side is tighter and features the only real drop on the ride. The Fantasyland side is swoopier with faster long curves. Both sides feature close encounters with Harold, the Abominable Snowman. His growl in the dark at the beginning of the Fantasyland side is the scariest thing. A great ride during the day but even better at night.

And that is not the former Governor of California giving the safety spiel at the beginning of the ride. The ride warning has even been incorporated into a song by the band No Doubt.


I was at the Animal Kingdom in May 2006. Expedition Everest had only been open for a month. It was a brand new attraction with fully working effects, what a beautiful sight to behold. Now this is an E-Ticket I said to myself. This attraction tells an original story and is not dependent upon another property. The whole area is loaded with details. You really sense that magic as you approach. What I mean when I say magic is that moment when your apprehension turns to awe and delight. I was very impressed. So like many others I quickly moved to grab my Fastpass and to take what was to become the first of 12 rides on that trip. It was part Matterhorn, part Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and part something really new and different. This is how I remember it.

Of course the entire setting is pitch perfect. The use of the buildings to frame a small courtyard off of the main path, the clever way they have created an ideal viewing area for those who do not wish to ride, and sense of overall calm with the occasional screams coming from the coaster.

The queue takes you inside and out, disorienting you from the main path. By the time you enter the camping supply store you have bought into the concept that you are in the Himalayan lowlands and are about to go on a journey to parts unknown. A walk through the Yeti museum just seals the deal. They build a back story for the Yeti then demonstrate how he is real. We also learn the cautionary tale of those who have not had successful encounters with the beast. If you are not excited by the time you have entered the long room with the windows facing the loading dock then something is wrong.

As the train pulls into the station, the tweet from the whistle and the burst of steam belching from the rear just confirm that you have left Florida and are someplace else. A real steam train! (I know I know). The plantings were all new but you got to love that little stroll through the foothills. Today, when I ride I have noticed how lush the area has become.

Finally there was that first encounter with the Yeti. Wow! I have seen Harold at the Matterhorn hundreds of times but this guy was very impressive. He tried to grab my head! I swear he was just inches away. The movement was so fluid, the red glow of the eyes so frightening, and those mangy hands with the fingers reaching out toward me. I was hooked. I rode the front row the first time and the back car the next time. That puff of steam made the experience more real. I mixed it up for my dozen trips on that day. I even rode the coaster at night. At night it is virtually dark the entire way. Absolutely the best time to ride Everest is at night.

I learned that the Yeti costs millions of dollars and has the physical force of a 747 jet! But rumor has it that he seems to have broken his foundation and has not worked on a regular basis for years. An absolute shame since he is essentially the climax of the ride.

SAMLAND'S WINNER: The Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland

But that's just how we see it. What's your winning mountain: Matterhorn or Everest? And what's your case for crowning it the top dog?
Sam Gennawey is an urban planner who has collaborated with communities throughout California over the course of more than 100 projects to create a great, big, beautiful tomorrow. For the past couple of years he has been the publisher of , a blog dedicated to the history and design of the North American Disney theme parks. Sam is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Regional Planning History Group, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving municipal, county, and private sector planning documents from throughout Los Angeles County.

Sam has recently contributed to a book which celebrates the 40th anniversary of Walt Disney World. "Four Decades of Magic" is now available in both hard copy and Kindle version at Amazon.