APEX Mountain School of Vail, Colorado

The Home of Rock, Ice and Snow

When planning your adventure in Vail, Colorado, trust the best. Our family business is Vail’s original mountaineering school and climbing guide service. Apex guides are passionate about rock climbing, ice climbing and skiing in the Vail area and beyond. We’re honored to guide and instruct you through your adventures in the mountains.

Our credentials are unmatched in the area with over 100 years combined staff experience in the mountains and more AMGA (American Mountain Guide Association) trainings and certifications than any other Vail mountain guiding service.

Out trips and courses include:

Call Us Today! We are Vail, Colorado’s source for high adventure – Apex Mountain School.

Interested in a course or trip? Send us a message below We’d love to connect

Left: You can either climb the First Flatiron on your own or hire a climbing guide for the day from Apex Mountain School.
Right: A Climber enjoys rock climbing in Eldorado Canyon on a route called Bastille. It is a 5-pitch climb and is considered one of the classic climbs in the Boulder area.

As seen on National Geographic Travel!

“I recently took an AIARE Level 1 Avy course with Apex. The 3-day course ran seamlessly with 1 classroom day and 2 field days. Zach and Scott are professional and knowledgeable, and were overall fantastic instructors. I learned an incredible amount during the course. I’d highly recommend taking an AIARE Level 1 course with Apex before venturing too deep into the backcountry. In addition to knowledge, Zach and Scott bestowed practical skills, tips and tricks for travel in the backcountry, which can only be passed down from those experienced in the field.The lessons I learned have already impacted how I look at the backcountry, and I’m looking forward to taking Level 2!”


AIARE Level 1

“Thank you Apex Mountain School for another great ice climbing trip. I appreciate the great service and attention to detail. I highly recommend Apex to anybody that is heading to Vail and is looking for adventure with experienced and helpful guides. This was my second time training with Tom and I will be back for rock climbing in the summer.”

Andrew B.

Vail Ice Climbing

“5/5 stars for sure. Our guides were prompt, professional, and most importantly an absolute blast to be around. My friends and I booked Apex for a multi pitch climb on the Flatirons in Boulder, and opted for a prep day as well. Our guides Scott & Sarah went above and beyond to make sure we were prepared to complete our collective first multi-pitch experience. They were clearly passionate about climbing and shared that passion with us; I would recommend Apex to anyone looking for a challenging, awesome outdoor experience.”

Pete O.

Multi-Pitch Climb on the Flatirons in Boulder


The backcountry can be an enjoyable and beautiful place with fresh powder and seldom seen vistas. Unfortunately, adventuring into the backcountry can be extremely dangerous and life threatening. The skier/mountaineer/climber/snowboarder mus understan how to manage the risks involved. We offer avalanche education courses with the intent of educating those wishing to explore the backcountry.


During our three day AIARE Level 1 courses you will first learn the basic consistencies and characteristics of snow pitches and avalanches. This first day is spent in the classroom to really understand the anatomy of an avalanche. After the first day we will quickly and safely get you into the backcountry to explore the snow first hand for the following days.


In our AIARE Level 2 course again we will begin in the classroom for the first day. There, we will review what we learned in the Level 1 course and explore more in depth the science of snow packs and avalanches. The next two days will be spent in the field covering more in depth techniques to test snow and be more confident in your decision making. Attending this class should help students feel more self-reliant in the backcountry and possible explore new terrain.


Our AIARE Avalanche Rescue course covers what should be done in case of an emergency in avalanche terrain. When accidents in the backcountry occur the most important thing to avoid is panic. The protocols covered in the course will help to minimize this panic and educate you on how to react appropriately. We will cover how to assign a leader, organize a group and implement a structured search pattern and recovery in a timely manner in order to increase the chances of survival for avalanche victims.


Rock climbing is an activity that pushes individuals in many aspects. The most obvious facet is the physical challenge but climbing is engaging mentally and psychologically above anything else. We constantly want to use our hands because it is what is eye level and subconsciously gives us the most comfort. We forget about our feet and legs which have muscles much stronger than our arms. It is also easy to succumb to tunnel vision with the rock features or techniques we have available, features which later stand out when we are on the ground looking up with a clear head.


Colorado is known worldwide for it’s rock. We are lucky enough to have a variety of styles of rock climbing available year-round. Close to Vail we have Roof Rock, a pleasant respite from the summer heat and sun. In the winter or on rainy days we can always visit the dry desert landscape in Wolcott. Both of these locations have beautiful, fun routes for beginners, families or experienced climbers.


Normally, we are limited to climbing the half of the length of our rope (100 feet) so that we can return safely to the ground, still attached to the rope. For those looking for more adventure, seeking higher objectives, we offer multi-pitch climbing. Multi-Pitch Climbing consists of the guide leading a section of rock; at times climbing the full length of the rope (200 feet). He then belays the rest of the party until they reach him. He then repeats the process. Climbing this way parties can reach much higher heights limited only by time and the abilities of the party.


While riding powder is great fun we can lose sight of a whole different aspect of winter: ICE! Ice Climbing shares many concepts with rock climbing. The biggest difference relies on the equipment we use to scale. Instead of relying on our bare hands and thin climbing shoes we must instead use ice axes to dig into the ice and crampons attached to ridged boots to hold on to the ice with our feet.


In winter, cascading waterfalls and trickling alpine flows freeze and form fantastically beautiful and surreal ice climbs. These short lived sculptures offer phenomenal climbing opportunities hence a chance to experience a truly unique and unforgettable adventure. These climbs range in height between 30 to 100+ feet. Given the nature of the ice, each climb forms slightly differently each year and is subject to change throughout the season which as a result offers climbers a new experience every climb. With expansive views of Colorado’s Rockies and a chance to challenge yourself in a winter wonderland, ice climbing is a great way to spend the day in the mountains.

Our guides will teach you everything you need to know to ascend these frozen beauties and travel efficiently in the mountains. All ages, abilities, and fitness levels are welcome. We will work with you to select routes that meet your specifics needs and skill set,


Vail, Colorado is a top international skiing destination with world-renowned skiing, both within and out-of-bounds. Our backcountry skiing and snowboarding trips allow for an unparalleled experience of the Rocky Mountains, where pristine bowls and fresh lines await. Ascend through alpine meadows, enjoy breathtaking scenery and glide down untracked lines in the peaceful quiet of Colorado’s backcountry.

Apex’s backcountry guides will share hidden powder stashes, as well as backcountry travel and snow analysis tips to help build your backcountry travel skills. Our guides know the local terrain better than anyone else and are excited to share their vast experience skiing and riding in the Colorado backcountry with you. Step into your bindings and experience the unique thrill of riding untracked terrain in a wild backcountry setting with Apex Mountain School.


These trips combine warm and comfortable backcountry huts and access to exceptional backcountry skiing and snowboarding. By day, venture out into the San Isabel National Forest for fresh turns in a high alpine environment, with instruction from our expert guides on efficient travel, skiing/riding techniques, and terrain selection to maximize your fun out on the slopes. In the evening, relax by the fire with a hot cup of tea as your guide prepares a hearty, home cooked meal on the woodstove and enjoy uninterrupted views of the untamed Colorado Rockies.

The huts themselves offer a uniquely luxurious backcountry experience that will leave you refreshed and ready for the next day of skiing/riding. Spectacular terrain bordering hut areas offer extensive options for backcountry skiing and riding for all ability levels.