Fort fun: Kidtopia Holiday Spectacular in full swing with snow castle open
KEYSTONE RESORT — Since 2016, Keystone Resort has put on its Kidtopia Holiday Spectacular for local and visiting families. This year’s event is now even more special with the opening of its Kidtopia Snow Fort on Saturday, Dec. 14.
While the resort’s Holiday Spectacular has been happening since River Run Village was illuminated in November, the festivities truly ramp up with the completion of the snow fort and the display of the Keystone Chocolate Village. The village, made by Keystone Executive Pastry Chef Gabriel Geers with more than 7,000 pounds of imported chocolate, can be seen daily through Jan. 6 in the lobby of the Keystone Lodge and Spa. You can pick up some specialty chocolate at the Edgewater Café if the edible gondola, waterfall and Christmas tree whet your appetite.
The village is also one of the stops for Santa Claus from 3-6 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 22. The big man in red also can be seen Saturday, Dec. 14, during Ripperoo’s Parade and Sunday, Dec. 15, at Go Big Burger at Mountain House.
From 8 a.m. to noon Tuesday, Dec. 24, Bighorn Bistro’s Jingle Bell Breakfast is the final opportunity to meet Santa before he has to deliver presents. Breakfast reservations can me made by calling 970-496-4386.
All other Kidtopia activities are still ongoing during the Holiday Spectacular, as well.
“One of my favorite things that is taking place this year is a free, cross-country ski lesson at our Nordic center,” Keystone spokeswoman Loryn Roberson said. Lessons are available from Dec. 19 through March 19.
Arguably the most exciting visit with Santa occurs during Kidtopia’s Mountaintop Spectacular on the winter solstice Saturday, Dec. 21. It is the only day the snow fort is lit up in holiday lights, and the evening features two firework shows — one at 6 p.m. at the mountain and one at 7 p.m. at the base, with the best views for the latter being on the gondola.
What: Mountaintop Spectacular
When: 4-7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21
Where: Kidtopia Snow Fort
Cost: Admission to the fort is free with a lift, scenic or tubing ticket. Visit keystoneresort.com for more details and to purchase.
Unofficially the world’s largest snow fort, the Kidtopia creation measures 85 feet deep and 95 deep long above the resort’s tubing hill at the top of the intermediate Spring Dipper run on Dercum Mountain.
“It’s as big as we can possibly fit it in that area,” Keystone Terrain Park Manager Tucker Baer said.
Baer and his A51 Terrain Park team have been working on the project alongside regular collaborator Keith Martin of Snice Carvings. The design discussions between the two began in March to hammer out details on mazes, slides, tunnels and towers.
Once snowmaking began in October, Baer’s crew moved the necessary snow to Spring Dipper, so “people are skiing on it without evening knowing,” he said. “Then it takes anywhere from two to three weeks to create the snow fort to its final state, and that all starts with us pulling the snow we hid on Spring Dipper and processing it to make sure its a safe and malleable snow, and then we push it basically into a big rectangle.
“Keith helps us with painting lines and space out all of our angles for our walls and where we’ll put our entrance, and then we’ll match the design.”
Some of the tools of the trade include excavators, snowcats, chain saws, wood-carving tools and Martin’s modified snowblower named Fluffy.
“We put like 9 feet of snow on certain spots, and Keith goes and chisels out this square of snow into this beautiful tower,” Baer said.
The castle has six towers — the most it has ever had — along with a number a slides, a kid’s entrance and intricate carvings of a dragon and a yeti. The same amount of slides as last season will be present, but in a slightly different configuration that has racing slides in the middle and a larger slide that transports kids toward the exit.
“For kids who are feeling a little bit more adventurous, they can climb up on top of our walls, walk around on the towers and have a beautiful view from the snow castle of our surrounding peaks, and then there’s a slide that you can go down,” Baer said.
Baer is proud of the work his team has accomplished. He’s grown up in terrain parks and this is his first year as manager at Keystone.
“It’s very natural for us to take on this project and make a snow fort out of nothing,” Baer said. “All my guys are really passionate about that, and they do a really good job with their machines and doing things that other people couldn’t even imagine doing in a sandbox as a kid.”
The fort closes at the end of the season due to warmer weather, yet the snow is repurposed for the resort’s summer tubing lanes.
“That is pretty unique to Keystone and pretty awesome that the snow fort allows us to have that as an option for our summer guests,” Baer said.
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