Back in November 2012 I wrote an article titled I Finally Rode Big Thunder Mountain in Disneyland Paris, in which I described the first time and only time I’d been on Big Thunder Mountain before our trip last week. Reading back and the line I distinctly remember actually smiling and dare I say, almost enjoying some of the exhilarating journey baffles me somewhat. Either that was bravado on my part or that feeling disappeared pretty fast, because that’s news to me almost 5 years on! I also said that I’d ride again, mainly due to my son, 4 at the time, wanting to ride at some point. Well as it turned out, he stayed below the legal ride height for a few years more, and when he did reach it, Big Thunder Mountain went down for refurbishment for a year. So this recent trip was actually the first opportunity we’d get to ride it, as a family. And it’s that excuse that I’ve used on trips when my son wasn’t there – how could I possibly ride without him?
Before arriving in Disneyland Paris we’d all agreed this would the time we would finally all ride Big Thunder Mountain, even if the near 5 year gap had brought my nerves back up to the previous levels. I’d not externalised my feelings so I don’t think I’m to blame that my son too was feeling quite anxious at the thought of riding it. To the point that on day 1 in Disneyland Paris he categorically said no, he wouldn’t be ride Big Thunder Mountain this trip. We are not pushy parents, and even though I too was nervous and I still wanted to experience it, especially post refurb, we agreed we’d all ride together. So the plan was to postpone this until our December trip.
Fast forward to Day 3, the Wednesday, and we were queuing for the Molly Brown, ready for a nice leisurely boat trip around the Rivers of the Far West, when it happened: My son looked across at Big Thunder Mountain and declared that he wanted to ride it after all! It seemed that seeing it in action had made him realise that it maybe wasn’t as bad as he thought, and being a veteran of the Spook Train in Great Yarmouth, he’d be able to handle it. I had mixed emotions – shock, mainly, but also nerves from the realisation that I’d be riding it too, something I wanted to do, but wasn’t really that comfortable with. It was a big thing for him, so I put aside my own trepidation and off we went, from Thunder Mesa Riverboat Landing to Big Thunder Mountain.
The queue was 115 minutes so we decided to get a Fast Pass for 6.20pm and come back later. Then it occurred to me that in that time my son, myself or both of us might change our minds, and really we had to capitalise on the energy of the moment. So we joined the queue, which in the time it took us to grab Fast Passes had gone down to a mere 85 minutes. I should mention that my wife had no such wavering thoughts, and had always been keen to ride Big Thunder Mountain, being held back by the two boys in her life! To take my mind off things, I took many photos in the queuing area – there were lots of new lights I’d not seen, so I was kind of in my element. Plus there were lots of mine related props and views across the Rivers of the Far West I’d not seen before.
All was going well until that point where you walk down the stairs – then I could see the Big Thunder Mountain trains and people getting on them. Then it became all to clear what I was about to do, and the nerves kicked in, big time. I was relieved when we got allocated a carriage in the middle, as I know the back is the wildest ride and I didn’t fancy sitting at the front and seeing everything coming towards me very fast. I took a selfie just before we got on, where the thoughts going through my head are quite obvious, and then we sat down. It was when the wheels started to move ever so slightly that I grabbed hold of the bar in front and hoped I hadn’t just made the worst decision of my life.
Big Thunder Mountain goes very quickly from trundling out of the loading area into a pitch black plummet downwards into darkness, fast. I was terrified at this point, and when we came out into the light I was struggling around looking for somewhere better to put my hands, as holding tightly was my absolute number one priority. My son seemed to be doing better than I, from the little I dared myself to look right and check. Besides, he had his mum to look after him, my attention, or rather my desire to get through this with minimal trauma, was focused almost entirely on me!
Then something happened, and I can’t pinpoint exactly where, as we were going very fast and my mind wasn’t really taking in the scenery. But somewhere along the line I stopped being scared and started to feel a tinge of exhilaration. It sounds ludicrous, but it almost felt like I was enjoying myself. That feeling escalated, rapidly, to where I actually had my arms in the air, and was whooping with excitement. What had happened to the guy who got on Big Thunder Mountain and who was this guy in his place? I then actually did start to look around at the theming, wowed at the views across Frontierland and enjoying the sensation of speed. Well, I was until it went dark.
You see as much as Big Thunder in Disneyland Paris starts by rocketing down into the dark unknown, it also ends in such a way. Except during the last stretch there are luminescent bats on the ceiling, to a point. When they disappear the train hurtles even faster and seemingly out of control. That scared me quite a lot, and I was relieved when I saw light and we slowed down, to a stop after a little trip out by the queuing area. In spite of that last section, I turned to see my son had as big a grin on his face as I did, and with my wife we all high fived and expressed our love for Big Thunder Mountain.
The queues were long again so we decided to return for our Fast Pass slot that evening, rather than go straight back on. As much as I ended up enjoying Big Thunder Mountain, most of it anyway, I wasn’t sure I was ready to climb straight back on. I was absolutely thrilled that I’d both ridden and enjoyed it, and feeling very proud of myself too. I couldn’t wait to let everyone know what a brave boy I had been, and knew people would be shocked I’d even ridden it, let alone thrown my arms in the air with reckless abandon.
6.20pm came and with Fast Passes in hand we arrived for our 2nd ride of the day, to find Big Thunder Mountain was temmporarily closed due to technical problems. It was then that I discovered the flipside of being a fan, for Big Thunder Mountain has been riddled with problems since it reopened at the end of last year, and rarely a day goes by where it isn’t down for some period of time, however big or small. We waited, went off to do Pirates of the Caribbean, we returned and waited again. Eventually we had to admit defeat and aim try again the next day, after being told that if it never reopened that evening we’d be able to use our Fast Passes the next day. That I found to be a really good move by Disneyland Paris and helped to soften the disappointment. Yes, me, Mr not going to ride Big Thunder Mountain was disappointed, to the point of gutted, that I couldn’t ride it for a second time that day.
That next day came, Thursday, it was down again when we arrived at rope drop for Frontierland, and I was starting to feel the pain of all those who’d tried unsuccessfully to experience the newly refurbished Big Thunder Mountain during the last 8 months. It was when we were actually on the Molly Brown that we noticed the trains were going round again, with actual guests on them. So after disembarking we ran, yes really ran, over to use our Fast Passes, and on we went for the second time that trip.
That was just the start, as that day we ended up riding Big Thunder Mountain 7 times. That included one period of 5 hours where my son and I queued for an hour or so then rode Big Thunder Mountain, then did the same again, and again, and again. You see, the more I experienced the wildest ride in the wilderness, the more I loved it. The fear of the dark parts moved to enjoyment, and then eventually excitement. We high fived, again, when we got to sit in the very last seats of the train, meaning we’d get the fastest ride possible. Every second I felt I could wave my arms in the air without hitting rock, they were up. In the course of that day, and those 5 rides, I became a huge Big Thunder Mountain fan, and due to my nature the obsession started to kick in.
Towards the end of the evening we were thinking of leaving but decided to take one last look at Big Thunder Mountain – a 65 minute queue. A bit of a discussion among the family and it was decided my wife would go for a hot chocolate while my son and I queued for ride number 6 of the day. In actuality, the queue was only about 35 minutes, and then it happened. I found something that can rival Pirates of the Caribbean as the absolute best thing in Disneyland Paris, and by extension, the world? Big Thunder Mountain at night is a whole new beast, and one that I smiled wider than the Cheshire Cat from the very first second to the last. The extra sensation of speed you get at night, combined with the subtle lighting of the attraction itself, and then seeing the lights of the resort as we whizzed around was just mind blowing. Hyperspace Mountain, Sleeping Beauty Castle, Disneyland Hotel, Phantom Manor to name but a few. All looking majestic with their colourful lights, as viewed from a runaway train at night. This was a landmark moment, and one that I never thought would happen. Of course we got off and queued again, this time for only about 20 minutes.
At almost 11pm we left Disneyland Park having ridden Big Thunder Mountain 7 times that day. SEVEN TIMES on Big Thunder Mountain for this guy here – the one that looked like he was going to throw up BEFORE that first ride on the previous day. This continued to our last day where we once again did rope drop, and this time Big Thunder Mountain was open. That meant a run to the queue for my son and I, while my wife kindly grabbed us Fast Passes. With Frontierland open less than an hour, we’d ridden it twice, and had more Fast Passes for 4.20pm – just before we were due to leave. For those three rides, I was wearing my newly acquired Big Thunder Mountain t-shirt – told you, obsessed. I was actually disappointed with the lack of Big Thunder Mountain merchandise in the shops, and especially the Attraction Series pin which apparently sold out months ago 🙁
This trip to Disneyland Paris was supposed to be all about Pirates of the Caribbean for me, and it still was, but Jack Sparrow and chums must also share the headlines with Big Thunder Mountain. If like me you have not wanted to ride it, then I urge you to please reconsider, because as we joked this should be on a t-shirt: if I can ride it so can you. Push those nerves aside, face your fears and take a ride on the most exhilarating attraction I have ever experienced – Big Thunder Mountain. I’m all set to ride Crush’s Coaster in December, though people have suggested that Rock n Roller Coaster or Hyperspace Mountain would be a better next step. Not sure my head can get around the loops, but then 10 days ago I’d have laughed at you saying I’d ride Big Thunder Mountain 11 times on this trip.
I’m so glad I finally did it, as now I have what is in effect a brand new state of the art ride at Disneyland Paris each and every time I go. It’ll be years before Big Thunder Mountain feels tired to me, if ever. And then it’ll be time for the next refurb anyway. My name is Steve, and going against everything I ever thought, I’m a Big Thunder Mountain addict.