KEYSTONE, Colorado - Enter the dragon's mouth - if you dare.
Parents, I'm not being overly dramatic here. Depending on the condition of your knees, crawling into the beast's jowl might hurt a bit. And kids, seriously: You cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel through the dragon's snout - and it's a long and narrow one.
Keystone's Kidtopia fort opened Thursday for the season. It's free to anyone who has a lift ticket or tubing ticket, or foot passengers can buy a pass for a day of play.
Kidtopia's in its third year. The fort keeps getting bigger and bigger, this year measuring 120 by 30 feet and rising 15 to 18 feet tall, said Heather Nordquist, Keystone's senior marketing manager.
"You dream of creating a fort when you're a kid, so we thought, 'How cool would it be to create this larger-than-life fort?'" Nordquist said.
So the Keystone team began to brainstorm what it would look like, and every year, they brainstorm anew: Last year, the fortress was square; this year, it's rounder, more Cinderella-like (yet with a king-sized throne), with one long entry tunnel and, once inside, two tunnels on top of the castle walls, a climbing wall with ropes and a yellow plastic slide on which both kids and adults can get some air, the latter of which was Summit Cove 5-year-old Anna Vos' favorite, she said Wednesday night at Kidtopia's preview.
Once the mountain-operations team makes the snow and moves it into a huge square, it takes fort builders 10 days to shift, mold and carve the huge "stone walls," towers, tunnels, face and fangs of the dragon.
Inside, kids become kings and queens for the day, with an entire castle in which to climb, roll, crawl, slide, run and play.
The fun really ignites on key holiday Saturday nights, when Keystone sets off fireworks that explode low - right over the fort - at 6 p.m., obviously meant to honor each and every little king and queen on the mountain.