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 avalanche education, rock climbing, ice climbing and skiing in the Vail area and beyond. We are honored to guide and instruct you through your adventures in the mountains.

Our team’s credentials are unmatched in the area, with more AMGA (American Mountain Guide Association) / AIARE (avalanche education) trainings and certifications than any other Vail mountain guiding service.

Our trips and courses include:

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


The winter time backcountry can be an enjoyable and beautiful place with fresh powder and seldom seen vistas. However adventuring into the backcountry does hold high risks of avalanche hazard and other challenging aspects. In order to minimize these risks, skiers, mountaineers, climbers and snowboarders must understand how to manage exposure to hazards in the backcountry. For learning to manage these hazards, we offer avalanche education courses; these classes offer a framework for mitigating this risk while planning, decision-making and traveling in winter avalanche terrain.


During our three day AIARE Level 1 course, you will learn the basics and characteristics of snow and avalanches. This first day is spent in the classroom studying the anatomy of an avalanche. After this, we head into the backcountry to explore the snow first hand for two days of companion rescue, snow study and safe travel practices.


In our AIARE Level 2 course, we begin with a classroom day studying the finer points of the next level of avalanche awareness, analysis and decision-making. We briefly review what was learned in the Level 1 course, and explore more in depth the science of snow stratigraphy, or layering. The next two days are spent in the field implementing new techniques to test snow and increase the quality of decision making. Attending this class should help students feel more self-reliant in the backcountry and open the doors to exploring new terrain.


Our AIARE Avalanche Rescue course delves into what to do if all goes wrong in avalanche terrain. When accidents in the backcountry occur, we must remain calm, organized and respond proficiently. The protocols covered in the course will help to minimize the panic factor and will educate you on how to respond appropriately, ensuring a more successful outcome. 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 as an activity pushes individuals in many ways – the most obvious of which is the physical challenge. But climbing is engaging mentally and psychologically above anything else. We may focus on our hands, because they are eye level and subconsciously gives us the most comfort. We might naturally tend to not focus on our feet and legs, which have muscles much stronger than our arms. It’s easy to succumb to tunnel vision as we look for rock features or techniques, features that later seem so obvious with a little encouragement and guidance.


Colorado is known worldwide for it’s rock. We are fortunate in Colorado to have a wide variety of rock types and styles of climbing available year-round. Close to Vail, we have multiple areas available in high mountain forest service terrain, a pleasant respite from the summer heat and sun. In the winter or on marginal weather days, we often travel to the dry desert landscape accessible 10 minutes from our Vail location. Both of these locations have excellent quality and fun routes for beginners, intermediate or advanced climbers.


In a single pitch, or top roping environment, we are limited to climbing half of the length of our rope (usually around 100 feet) or less so that we can return to the ground by being lowered. For those looking for more adventure and seeking higher objectives, we offer Multi-Pitch Climbing. Multi-Pitch Climbing consists of the guide leading a section of rock, at times even climbing greater distances than a single pitch. The guide then belays the clients up to the anchor, and this process is repeated. Climbing this way, parties can climb to higher heights on larger objectives.


When you’re ready to take a break from riding that dreamy Colorado powder, ice climbing is a great way to enjoy yourself with friends and family! Ice Climbing shares similarities with rock climbing when it comes to efficiency of body movement. Many of the similarities end there. Ice climbing relies on a different set of tools. Instead of relying on our bare hands and comparatively soft rubber climbing shoes, we use ice axes to swing into the ice and crampons attached to ridgid boots to attach ourselves to the ice. This sport is exciting and fun!


In winter, cascading waterfalls and trickling alpine flows freeze and form fantastically beautiful and surreal ice climbs. These seasonal sculptures offer phenomenal climbing opportunities; hence, a chance to experience a truly unique and unforgettable adventure. Vail, Colorado, as chance would have it, is blessed with some of the most accessible fine ice on the continent. These climbs range in height between 30 and 100+ feet, providing an excellent selection of beginner through advanced options. Given the nature of the ice, each climb forms slightly differently each year and is subject to change throughout the season which also offers climbers a new experience every visit. 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. All age, ability, and fitness levels are welcome, and our guides work with you to select routes that meet your specifics needs and skill set.


Vail, Colorado is a top-level international skiing destination with world-renowned skiing, both within and out of ski area boundaires. Our backcountry skiing and snowboarding trips offer an unparalleled experience of the Rocky Mountains, where pristine bowls and fresh tracks await. Ascend through alpine meadows, enjoy breathtaking scenery and glide down un-tracked 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, if you wish, to help build your backcountry travel skills. With our knowledge of the local terrain, and an excitement to share the experience with you, riding in the Colorado backcountry with Apex is the material of treasured memories. Step into your bindings and experience the unique thrill of riding in a wild backcountry setting with Apex Mountain School.


These trips combine warm and comfortable backcountry huts with access to exceptional backcountry skiing and snowboarding. By day, venture out into the Pike/San Isabel or White River National Forest for fresh turns in a high alpine environment, with instruction from our seasoned guides on efficient travel, skiing/riding techniques and terrain selection. Maximize your fun on the slopes! By nightfall, relax by a roaring wood fire with a hot cup of tea as your guide prepares a hearty meal on the wood stove. The huts themselves offer a uniquely luxurious backcountry experience that will leave you refreshed and ready for the next day of skiing/riding, and our private booked hut is even more intimate and worth every penny. Spectacular terrain bordering hut areas offer extensive options for backcountry skiing and riding for all ability levels.

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!” TJ R. ★★★★★ TripAdvisor.com

“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 ★★★★★ Yelp.com

“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. ★★★★★ Facebook.com