Getting people outdoors and sharing with them the tastes, sights and sounds of Helena is what Kurt Valiton calls good business.
Valiton began his new business venture, Vigilante Shuttles and Tours, in May.
"I'm a born and raised Helena man," Valiton said. "When people visit, I always find myself wanting to show off the best places."
Opening the Vigilante Shuttle was his way of sharing his beloved city and starting his own business in the process.
"Helena is a great base camp for your western Montana adventure," Valiton said. "When you really love a place, it's pretty easy to turn it into a business."
Start up was relatively easy. Valiton bought a heavy-duty all-wheel drive van and sold his 1993 Toyota pickup to buy a custom-built bike rack from Coyote Shuttles in Utah.
His first gigs were volunteering for Shuttle Fest, during which he shuttled 119 bikes, and then the Helenduro race shortly after. Valiton said this was his way of giving back to some of the organizations that make Helena so great. It was people like these organizers and the business entrepreneurs around town who made Valiton want to start his own business.
Vigilante Shuttles and Tours offers standard shuttle services ferrying people to and from trails in groups or via ride sharing. He aims to offer easy and quick transportation while removing the hassle of dealing with a car or wondering how to transport 10 bikes.
In addition, he offers numerous tours.
Full and half-day "Bike and Brew Tours" are one of Vigilante Shuttles' signature offerings. Valiton will shuttle customers along a customized trail tour before retiring them to one of Helena's many breweries in the evening. During the full day service, Valiton will cater a trail side lunch for the group. Dinner in town and a hot spring soak are also on the menu for those who wish it.
The craft beverage tour is another offering featuring Helena's five breweries and one distillery. This tour aims to give customers a taste of Helena without having to worry about driving.
Valiton also has the Experience Helena tour, which he pitches as his "curated red carpet offering." It's aimed at people visiting Helena or those who might be considering making Helena their home. Valiton said he hopes to partner with local businesses and realtors in the future to help better sell Helena to prospective employees or home buyers.
However, Valiton's does not limit his services. He very much wants to work with his customers to meet their needs. One unexpected gig was when he recently shuttled a wedding party. Shortly after, he booked a second wedding party.
"I really want to run a shuttle that is fun for the locals," Valiton said. "If I can help people get out and do what they love, that's a win."
Leaving someone at the bottom of a trail with the car is never fun. This is the market that Valiton wants to serve locally. Helena has a large community of hikers, bikers and runners. Vigilante Shuttles wants to offer something to all of the local trail using communities.
While serving out-of-town customers Valiton uses his knowledge of Helena as a selling point. He can make recommendations based on the level of hiking or biking experience his customers want. His knowledge of the trails, restaurants and breweries in the area allows him to curate a personal experience for each group he shuttles.
Vigilante Shuttles and Tours operates in an approximate 30 mile area around Helena. Valiton has to be permitted by the U.S. Forest Service for each trail he takes customers to, which he said is a long process. This caused some delay in starting his shuttle tours, but he has managed to stay busy the past few weeks.
"The Helena Ranger District has been great to work with," Valiton said.
Looking toward the future of his fledgling business, Valiton said he has been presented opportunities to work with groups like the Montana Wilderness Association and the Montana Bicycle Guild. Keeping organizations like these on his radar is important, he said.
There is also the matter of running the shuttle in the winter. Trails will still be available but will certainly see less use. Once the seasons change, Valiton hopes to cater people snowshoeing, riding fat bikes, hikers and skiers. His other tour offerings will remain the same.
Vigilante Shuttles and Tours operates Thursday through Sunday. Valiton works as a registered nurse with St. Peter's Health the other days of the week. Rides and tours can be scheduled online at vigilantetours.com.