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...
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 brand-new resort 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 nonlethal 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 nonlethal 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 tranquillity of the mountains to go indoors and confront the set-stages, props and sound effects of contemporary urban violence?
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 since some of Elk Mountain’s 21 rooms and 17 cottages are just opening this month with a formal grand opening in July. 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.