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.

AIARE 1 Course


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 of this avalanche education course 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. Topics covered during these field days include 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 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 things go 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. In this avalanche education course, we will cover how to assign a leader, organize a group and implement a structured search pattern. These techniques provide a recovery in a timely manner in order to increase the chances of survival for avalanche victims.

Vail Rock Climbing


Rock climbing is an activity that 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 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. This environment provides 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 with one rope. For those looking for more adventure and seeking higher objectives, we offer Multi-Pitch trips.  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.

Vail Rock Climbing
Vail Ice Climbing


When you’re ready to take a break from skiing 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 rigid 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; a chance to experience a truly unique and unforgettable adventure. Vail, Colorado 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. 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 boundaries. 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. These tips will 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 offer warm and comfortable backcountry huts with access to exceptional backcountry skiing and snowboarding. By day, venture out into the nearby National Forests (Pike-San Isabel and White River) for fresh turns in a high alpine environment.  Your day will be complete 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 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. They will leave you refreshed and ready for the next day of skiing/riding. Our private booked hut is even more intimate and worth every penny. Spectacular terrain bordering the 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

Rock Climbing Anchors
Apex Mountain School
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!

Andrew Kirchhoff
Andrew Kirchhoff
July 1, 2022.
My teen sons and I had an amazing time rappelling with Bob in Vail! Apex provided everything we needed and accommodated our last minute booking. Thank you Apex!!
June 29, 2022.
Myself and my family had a awesome time repelling. Thanks to Bob we had fun while staying safe. I would recommend for anyone seeking a thrilling experience.
Colin Kirchhoff
Colin Kirchhoff
June 29, 2022.
Bob was a fantastic guide! Despite never repelling before, Bob never failed to make us feel safe and confident enough to have fun. 10/10 experience. Thank you so much!
Beth Ann Rosica
Beth Ann Rosica
June 28, 2022.
We had an amazing day climbing with Bob! We had 4 kids between 13 and 15, and Bob coached all of them to the top! He was patient and encouraging and kept everyone safe! I highly recommend Apex for a climbing experience! The kids are hooked on climbing and loved the adventure!
Jack Saussy
Jack Saussy
June 27, 2022.
My family had a great day climbing with Bob. He was very knowledgeable about the routes and equipment and turned our half day of climbing into a lesson. I plan to get my own shoes and join a gym at home because of this great experience, I highly recommend Apex Mountain School!
Jamie Schmid
Jamie Schmid
February 7, 2022.
We had such a blast ice climbing with our guide Jesse! He was so helpful and motivating and never made us feel like we were terrible at climbing even though it was our first time haha and he was so patient with all my picture taking and getting great shots! Would 1,000% recommend!
Joe Mahoney
Joe Mahoney
January 18, 2022.
Took my AIARE 1 through APEX. It was hard to decide with so many options out there. Look no further, APEX is exactly what you're looking for. I walked away with the exact knowledge I was hoping to get, and more. Josh V was our instructor and is extremely knowledgeable, had great answers to all of our questions and was just great to hang out with in the backcountry. Can't recommend these guys enough.
Shannon M.
Shannon M.
December 6, 2021.
Recently took the Level 1 AIARE Course with Apex and had a great experience. All of the instructors were extremely knowledgeable and passionate about snow safety and answered all questions in great detail to ensure the students learned as much as possible in the 3 day course. It was a very hands on experience and we were even able to do lots of field work despite the low snow conditions right now. Will definitely come back for another course, and looking forward to more backcountry travel with all the new info learned!
kurt albertson
kurt albertson
November 24, 2021.
Apex Mountain School is a wonderful outdoor educational and guide service! Recently took the level one AIARE and Avalanche Rescue course through Apex. Our instructors Andy and Mike were highly professional, knowledgeable and very engaging instructors that were very passionate about snow safety and teaching others about best practices to enjoy their experiences safely in the backcountry. Would highly recommend anyone regardless of experience to take a course with Apex. Looking forward to continuing my outdoor experiences with Apex in the future via additional educational courses as well as the opportunity for private guided trips. Excellent people and a great experience!!!
Tom Watson
Tom Watson
November 23, 2021.
I took the AIARE 1 course with Apex Mountain school and it was truly an amazing experience. Andy was a outstanding instructor, he fostered a culture in the group that encouraged participation, teamwork, learning and fun! The knowledge and tools learned in the course were second to none. We were fortunate to have a small group of 5, and this allowed for a lot of questions, learn by doing, and overall really fun time. I cannot recommend Apex Mountain School enough.