Alright, now that I'm well rested and back on Texas time, I can tell you a bit about Valhalla. First of all, let me tell you a bit about myself so you know where this review is coming from. I was on a rifle team in high school and shot competitively quite a bit. Then due to shifting interests (female), I stopped shooting for about 20 years. About 5 months ago I went to a gun show on a whim and came home with a handgun. I took it to the range one afternoon and was a bit surprised at how much I enjoyed it. That gun has since been traded (for a skeet/trap gun) and I now own three Sigs. I burn about 1000-1500 rounds a month shooting target, and have been to 4 IDPA matches. My wife has been out to the range with me 3 or 4 times and enjoys it as well. So the short version is that I haven't been doing this long, I shoot a lot, and really enjoy it. That's the disclaimer. Oh, and I haven't been to any other training facilities. So take what you will from my thoughts.
I was on a ski vacation last week in Keystone, Colorado. Before we went, my wife had been flipping through one of my gun magazines (I forget which) and read an article on Valhalla. She mentioned it was in Colorado (and a 5 star resort). It took my lightening quick brain over a day to put together that I was going to be in Co. We booked a short, half day private class to take instead of skiing for a day. We drove from Keystone to Valhalla which took about 3.5 hours. If you're thinking about driving there, forget Mapquest. It left us about 20 miles short. However the nice people at Valhalla guided us in, arriving at about 9:30pm the night before our class.
Accommodations: We arrived late, but the level of service was first rate. I was met outside the door by several people who unloaded our bags, parked the car and took us in to the concierge. We checked in and our bags were taken to our room while we went in to the restaurant for a late dinner. The lodge is well done and very comfortable, kind of a luxurious hunting lodge, but not fussy or fru-fru. The kind of place you would feel comfortable siting around in wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Lots of large couches, and larger fireplaces. But again the level of service makes you feel like you're at the Beverly Hills Hotel (which I've stayed at, oddly enough), without the slightly out of place feeling I get at really nice places. So on to the food: There's not a lot to choose from, as there is only one restaurant, but thats definitely not a handicap. The food was unbelievably good, better than anything else I had all week in the Keystone/Vail area, and better than anything I've had in a long time. That goes for breakfast and lunch too. If you go, I highly recommend the pancakes or Elk Mountain Benedict. Not sure what they do to those pancakes but I could live of those for awhile. The benedict had filets on top of the poached eggs (yes, filet mignon). Then to the room. This is the kind of place your wife will be excited about, as mine was. Again well done but not fussy. Large bathrooms with double sinks, soaking tub, separate shower and private toilet. All very nice. The bed was hands down the most comfortable thing I've ever slept on in my life. 450 thread count sheets (my wife says this is a good thing), all I know is they were extremely comfortable and 'inspiring' if you know what I mean. The lodge offers the amenities you would expect from a 5 star resort, more stuff that excited my wife, check them out at elkmountainresort.com for more on that. On to the stuff you're really reading this for...
Range: The range facilities are separate from the main lodge and a nice guy in a enclosed golf-cart thing drove us up to it. We met our instructor, Brad Schuppan, who took us upstairs to go over a few things. No folding chairs here, big leather couches. There were three of us, me a relative beginner, my wife really a beginner, and my sister who hasn't really shot before at all. He covered the basics (safety, etc.), and told us a bit about what we would be doing. He's very approachable and makes things easy to grasp--easy going guy and doesn't make you feel like you're talking with a 'gun-guru'. Keep in mind that this was for a 3 hour class, so only so much we could do. We started in what they call the maze. He took us into a small room in the maze, set up some targets at about 5 yards, and started teaching us grip, stance and high-ready. He taught us a method of shooting which places more focus on the target than the sights. Within 10 minutes, my sister, the non shooter, was getting good groups. They had set her up to use a Springfield XD 9mm (no charge). My wifes groups weren't as good, she was using my Sig 239. We discussed the pros and cons of the DA-SA triggers on Sigs for a few minutes and then Brad set her up with a Glock (17, I think), and her groups improved dramatically (yup, I got to buy another gun now). Also, they use only frangible ammunition, which I believe is mostly for safety, but since it is a bit underpowered, it also helps to show shooter error. Over the course of he class I had a couple FTE's due to loose arms/grip that I never would have experienced with normal target ammo. Helped to correct my mistakes. Then since we were all shooting pretty well we went for a run through The Maze. You walk in through a door to a dark hallway. With Brad behind me giving directions (it is a maze after all) I began to walk through. As I'm walking, targets pop up/swing out and I've got to determine if it's a good guy or bad guy and then take action. I think because this was a first time, all the ones that popped up were bad guys. We walked past a magazine stand, and into a bar. In the bar, all the 'people' are mannequins, so no paper here. At the end of the bar was a guy with a hostage so only a head shot would do. Once hit, he dropped to the floor, which startled me a bit. A number of the other targets reacted in a similar manner, requiring a number of hits or properly placed hits to go down, again a mixture of paper and three-dimensional targets. Also, all the paper targets were photographs of bad guys with guns, not silhouettes with circles. The maze also has different sound and lighting effects in it that make it much more challenging. One hallway I went down had After going through it, I realize that I'm not a very good 'room-clearer'. There were a number of times that I didn't see the bad guy, for instance the guy to my right while I'm focused on the guy in front of me. Also, The Maze offered the element of surprise that adds a whole new dimension which I wish could be replicated in an IDPA match or something. You have to recognize, asses and react to a threat in a way that running through an IDPA course simply does not address. To quote them, "At Valhalla, we stress that the athletic ability to draw and shoot quickly and accurately is only useful in conjunction with the tactical ability to recognize an attack and respond efficiently using the environment, training and equipment available." Besides being really educational, it was mostly damn-fun. After each of us took a run through the maze, we went upstairs to their square-range to do a bit more practice moving and shooting. The whole time, Brad is there hands-on helping us improve. I need to practice what he taught, but the times everything 'clicked' for me, I had 3-4 shot 2" groups COM, so I think Brad's a great instructor. Afterwards, another run through the Maze for each of us and our short class was over. We all did better on our second run through the maze, and it was not the same as the first run--different targets, different route, different experience. Overall I think the class was really first rate, and don't know of any other place that can offer the same experience. Also, the facility is much bigger than the parts we went through. Here's a list of what's there to shoot in:
* Fully furnished house:
o -master bedroom w/ walk-in closet
o -living room
o -kid's room
o -utility room
* First Class Section and Cockpit of a jumbo jet.
* Night Club
* Subway Station
* Magazine Stand
* Convenience Store
* Industrial Settings
Check them out at valhallashootingclub.com. Some vid's there as well.
In the end, I learned a lot and need to practice what I learned. My sister and wife also really enjoyed the experience. My sister will be trading her S&W .38 for an XD, and my wife will be getting a Glock. My wife already decided that we will be going back for a longer course, like their 2 Day Concealed Carry Tactics class. She's also interested in their classes geared towards women, like their Women's Personal Defense Readiness class. What more can you ask at the end of a training class than to have your wife insist that you go back for more.
Enough out of me.
P.S. If Brad or Rob reads this, sorry about the light