Most of us are very familiar with the 88-meter high roller coaster, the Matterhorn, as it appears on the large majority of carnivals around the world. But did you know that there is also a massive steel roller coaster in Japan that goes by that name? This is not a rhetorical question; I really don’t know the answer. Perhaps if you read on, you will find out.
The Matterhorn Is A World Heritage Site
The Matterhorn, as mentioned above, is one of the most recognizable roller coasters in the world. Located at the Swiss amusement park, Alpendorf, it is a bobsled-style roller coaster that is 88 meters (282 feet) high and features a 1.8 kilometer (1.2 mile) drop. Construction of the Matterhorn started in 1912 and was completed 16 years later in an attempt to prove that Switzerland was capable of building something bigger and better than its previous coasters. The ride was intended to be a memorial to a young prince who had been tragically killed in an accident a few years earlier. The tragedy had shaken the entire country and served as a reminder that even the most majestic mountains can come tumbling down.
The history of the Matterhorn is, in a word, amazing. It is one of the most recognizable symbols of Alpine Switzerland and has been featured on the country’s flag since 1923. In 1963, the park decided that it was about time for an upgrade and constructed the Grand Prix, a double-launch roller coaster that was, at the time, the world’s longest. Seven years later, in order to attract more foreign visitors, the park built yet another coaster, this time named the Matterhorn Bobsleds. The world’s longest bobsled run is actually a combination of the two previous coasters. In 1980, the park added a third, identical coaster to accommodate the rapidly increasing demand.
In 1992, the park finally completed its goal of building the greatest collection of roller coasters in the world and, in 1994, launched the Wildfire Express, a combination boat ride and roller coaster that, at the time, was the steepest, fastest, and most intense roller coaster in the world. Seven years later, the park added an ultra-dark ride, appropriately named the Black Hole. This year will mark the 100th anniversary of Alpendorf Park and it will be incorporating many different elements to celebrate the occasion.
The Mountains May Be Attracting More Than You’d Think
It probably wouldn’t surprise you to hear that the Alps have become a hotspot for mountain climbing. While most people associate the alps with Switzerland, many extreme sports enthusiasts are attracted to the mountains for their vast array of climbing routes, glaciers, and snowy landscapes. In fact, according to the Swiss government, the country’s tourism industry has seen a 32% increase in winter sports tourism in the last six years.
Mountain tourism is a $25 billion industry in Switzerland alone and, in 2017, the country saw nearly 800,000 overnight stays related to winter sports.
With the summer season almost upon us, it’s a great time for a last-ditch attempt to get oneself in shape before the winter sports season starts in earnest. Whether you’re planning on taking on the Swiss Alps in a guided climbing expedition or you’re just looking for a way to beat the summertime blues, the Matterhorn offers a spectacular way to work out. It’s a true test of both strength and courage. Who needs St. Valentines when you’ve got the Matterhorn?
The Huge Roller Coaster In Japan
The world’s largest roller coaster, appropriately named simply the Big Giant, can be found at the Nikko Hotel Kamakura. This extraordinary creation stands at 164.8 meters (540 feet) and features a 1.964 kilometer (1.28 mile) track that loops, turns, and drops. Amazed riders will experience a weightless feeling as they zoom around the track at 67 kilometers an hour (41.3mph). When it opened in 1968, the Big Giant became the worlds’s greatest attraction and was an instant success. The ride was originally designed to accommodate 1,200 passengers per day but, thanks to technological advances, the capacity has increased to 3,400 riders per day (with 8-person sleds available for the really adventurous).
Though they look like an ordinary ski resort, Nikko Kamakura is, in fact, the burial place of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first lord of the Tokugawa shogunate. The lord’s mausoleum is located in the center of the resort and is bordered by Mount Yari, the highest peak in the area, which is 1,066 meters (3,528 feet) tall.
The founder of Nikko Kamakura, Mr. Hanabusa, sought to emulate the historic charm of the town’s founder, the emperor who had inspired the shogunate in the first place. By the late 1800s, the town’s postmaster (and one of its most prominent residents) had registered over 16,000 domains (a fancy word for ‘farms’ or ‘estates’) in his name. Today, the town is most famous for its cherry blossoms and its famous Japanese drum museum. It also hosts a famous fireworks festival that is a must-see for any visitor.
Though the Big Giant is fascinating, let’s not forget about our old friend, the 88-meter high Matterhorn. The Matterhorn, located at the Swiss resort of Alpendorf, is arguably the most historic of all the Swiss mountains. The first section of the trail was opened to the public in 1912 and is a Unesco World Heritage Site. In addition to the iconic Matterhorn, visitors and locals alike can enjoy 19 hiking trails winding through the thick pine forests and past over 40 lakes. One needs to look no further for a true mountain experience.
Alpine resorts, especially those in the Swiss Alps, have been known to have some of the highest hospitalization and death rates among sports enthusiasts due to the nature of the extreme sports that take place there. Though the absolute numbers aren’t available, it is widely believed that the combination of hiking, cycling, and skiing causes more injuries than one would expect for a typical day out on the town. The risks are well known and, despite the dangers, many thrill-seekers flock to the Alps each year.
No Accidents So Far
Since the Big Giant opened in 1968, it has been extremely safe. Though there are occasional minor incidents that arise from extreme sports (i.e., getting hit by a falling tree, hit by lightning, or drowning in a lake due to careless behavior), the park’s track record is incredible. In fact, since opening day, there have only been two reported accidents involving the coaster (and both of those were minor). One of the riders was transported to the hospital but ultimately made a full recovery. The second rider was transported by ambulance but was also able to walk again (a broken collarbone is what caused him to be hospitalized in the first place).
The Big Giant is, without a doubt, one of the safest and most popular roller coasters in the world. Due, in part, to its immense popularity, the capacity has increased to 3,400 riders per day (with 8-person sleds available for the really adventurous). Though it’s not a traditional roller coaster, the Big Giant has become a staple of any amusement park that features a steeply pitched track.
Which One Would You Rather Take On?
Deciding which one you would rather take on is extremely difficult. They’re both phenomenal, world-class attractions. The Big Giant is the first to consider because it’s a longer ride and has more sudden, intense turns. The Matterhorn is the second because it’s a little faster and smoother than the Big Giant. If you’re a beginner, I would go with the Big Giant because it’s more intense. If you’re a seasoned rider, go with the Matterhorn because it’s a shorter ride and has slightly fewer sharp turns (though that’s not to say that the Big Giant doesn’t have its share of heart-stopping turns as well).
Ultimately, it’s all about how much you’re willing to pay. If you want to experience the thrill of a lifetime, you have to shell out the big bucks to do so. If you’ve got the money, the Matterhorn is a no-brainer.