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Old June 27, 2004, 07:07 AM   #1
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SWAT magazine, in Valhalla.

Anyone been here? Would be nice to get a first-person review...

Enjoy a killer mountain getaway to practice marksmanship

By John Balzar

Los Angeles Times

MONTROSE, Colo. – Walk down that dim hallway. Be wary. Don’t need a guidebook to tell you that this is the kind of sinister place where trouble makes a living. A man lunges out of the shadows, sure enough aiming a gun. Aiming it at you.

Are you fast enough to pull out a Glock and drop him?

Turn a corner, walk into a room of disorienting nightclub strobe lights, then find your way to the bar. It’s a seedy dive with some very somber customers, one slouched on a stool in front of you and others at tables to your left. Not what you’d expect in a resort community where room rates range from $325 to $2,600 a night – too many trucker hats, soiled T-shirts and waxy, expressionless faces. You might be a high roller but you can’t even get the bartender’s attention before another stranger points a gun at your precious self. Reach for the Glock.

Vacations, it seems, just aren’t what they used to be.

Fresh air, quiet, the great outdoors, all that – those aren’t the only reasons to come to the Rocky Mountains anymore. In another sign of the times, you can now go looking for bedlam, too.

Ladies, wanna take down a rapist? Gents, our grim planet is crawling with terrorists and muggers and fiends of all kinds, it’s time to lock and load – yes, live ammo – and stand up for yourselves and the rest of us.

Valhalla is what they call this place. The Valhalla Shooting Club and Training Center, a pistol and self-defense complex that mixes Hollywood stagecraft, futuristic technology and resort luxury with brutal 21st-century reality.

Beginning a decade ago, Thomas S. Forman scouted out 11 states and Canada before he settled on his dream property: 275 acres of aspen groves and evergreens at 9,000 feet on the western slope of the Colorado mountains, up a remote road between Montrose and Telluride. He named it Elk Mountain Resort. The hook became Valhalla – the word arising from the Great Hall in Norse mythology where warriors feasted.

On a vista overlooking a dozen 14-ers, those fang-toothed 14,000-foot peaks in the neighborhood, Forman created ranges for wing-shooting: clay-target trap, skeet and five-stand.

A 6-foot-4 obsessive with 30 years in the martial arts, Forman wasn’t the type to leave matters there. A shooting range needed a clubhouse. So why not add a pistol range? Why not make it the most realistic live-fire pistol range this side of Baghdad? Why not have “scenario” rooms where vacationers can shoot it out in a bar, in a mock bedroom, in the first-class cabin of a jetliner, in a subway, in a darkened hallway, and ... well, let’s not give it all away. In the steel-lined, 16,000-square-foot building, shooters can use real bullets against paper and 3-D mannequin targets, or they can choose non-lethal air guns and shoot against one another.

Forman’s theory is that people will travel to the mountains to enjoy cigars and brandy in a wood-scented smoking lounge overlooking a trout-stocked pond. They’ll go horseback riding in the aspens. They’ll hang out and play Scrabble with the family in two-story, three-bedroom log-faced “cottages.” They’ll get married in a log chapel. They’ll dine at the resort’s Pyrenees-Alpine restaurant, with its award-winning chef and a wine cellar as big as two container trucks.

Along the way, for fun, they’ll wander over and descend into the belly of the beast and battle for their lives.

As Elk Mountain advertisements put it: “Today, you rescued the plane, prevented a carjacking and shot your way out of a crowded subway station ... and you never left our resort.”

For those occasions when you might find yourself unarmed, Forman also offers non-lethal training in practical rape deterrence, in child-abduction prevention and in travelers’ self-defense using 500-year-old martial arts techniques of Korean cane fighting.

“There’s nothing like this on the planet,” says Rob Pincus, Elk Mountain’s shooting director, a former police officer and security consultant with a shaved head and the kind of oversized, intense eyes that identify him as someone not to be fooled with.

The coffee table in front of the colossal stone fireplace at the Valhalla clubhouse suggests the target audience for these diversions. Millionaire magazine is stacked up alongside a magazine called S.W.A.T., Weapons, Tactics & Training for the Real World.

At this point, perhaps, the question comes to mind: Why?

Why venture into the tranquility of the mountains to go indoors and confront the set-stages, props and sound effects of contemporary urban violence?

For one thing, Forman figures there’s a little James Bond in many of us. “Yes, you’re escaping your reality when you come here,” he says. “But your reality is always there in the back of your mind. The fact is, home is always back there in your thoughts. Coming here will make you feel better and more confident about going home.”

So far, Forman’s theory is untested. Construction and landscaping crews are scrambling to finish in time for Elk Mountain’s 21-room, 17-cottage opening June 4. The Valhalla Shooting Club has begun operations already but chiefly for police and bodyguard training and as a draw for those who are serious about their pistol craft.

The larger appeal of gunpowder instead of golf as a high-end resort entertainment amenity awaits the test of time.

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Old June 27, 2004, 09:43 AM   #2
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Check the latest issue while you are waiting for a reply!
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Old June 27, 2004, 12:51 PM   #3
Rich Lucibella
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As Obi stated, check the August issue. Also, Dec '03 and Jan '04. Ties between TFL/SWAT and Valhalla are close. Rob Pincus is PlankHolder Staff here, Training Consultant for SWAT and Training Director for Valhalla.

I've been there. It's the single finest indoor simulator I've ever seen, embedded in a 5 star resort with long gun training also available. Rob's doing a lot of innovative work there, not the least of which is CQB. Going out again on the 4th of July for their official opening.
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Old June 27, 2004, 02:32 PM   #4
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Yet another reason I need a new job!


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Old June 28, 2004, 12:15 AM   #5
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I've been there a couple of times working as a freelancer. It's the single most incredible shooting facility I've ever seen. To qualify that, however, I must admit that I've never been to any shooting schools such as Thunder Ranch, Gunsite, etc. The closest thing I have personally experienced to compare it to would be the shooting facility at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, and it's a different enough place that drawing a comparison would be a real apples-to-kiwis affair.

Valhalla is incredible, and both Rob Pincus and Mr. Forman are dedicated to not only making the place a cutting edge facility, but also keeping it that way.

Last time I was out I took a few photos, and have been slowly (very slowly) working on doing a little writeup of the place in my free time.
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Old July 9, 2004, 09:20 PM   #6
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Great training, I'm sure. But, by the gods, is it expensive.

Caviar dreams.....
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Old July 14, 2004, 08:44 PM   #7
Rob Pincus
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Thanks for all of the kind words...

Training at Valhalla is not as expensive as Staying at Elk Mountain Resort... they are two very different things. Check out our website and I think you'll find that our pricing is competitive for open enrollment courses during the Spring and Fall Training seasons... and training center students get Significant discounts on lodging and food at the resort, if they choose to stay up at the facility instead of down in Montrose...
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