Since hosting their first class in 1989, Arizona Climbing and Adventure School's instructors have sent an estimated 37,000 students scurrying up the earth's craggy cliffs. Instead of learning climbing in an indoor facility, participants climb nature’s precipices outdoors upon the Southwest's cliffs and mountains. Adventurer and school director Mark Brontsema guides his students and fellow instructors by a philosophy that emphasizes self-reliance, goal setting, and teamwork. He now brings more than three decades to his post as school director, taking time from a busy schedule that includes writing gear reviews for the New York Times.
The school offers a large number of courses that target students of varying skill levels and reveal technique secrets in small groups of two to six students. Classes may focus on rappelling and anchors, guide services, and equipment-free bouldering, which relies solely on the climber's hands, feet, and retractable suction cups. Adventure courses include day trips and overnight climbing excursions, while special workshops address topics such as backpacking, being an ecologically responsible climber and hiker, and using GPS devices.
It’s an average day on the streets of Old Town Scottsdale, where cars and pedestrians amble along the scenic sites. Suddenly, a crazy-looking contraption emerges from an intersection with six passengers on either side pedaling in the open air. This vehicle, which is inspired by cycling apparatuses Europe, is Tour De Tavern’s pride and joy. Guided by an experienced driver, the passengers glide along at speeds of up to 8 miles per hour and take in the sites around them to the tunes coming from a built-in sound system with an iPod hook up. In addition to daily tours, the business caters to bachelor parties and corporate team-building events.
Nestled between the rocky foothills of Mount Lemmon and the banks of the San Pedro River, Cactus Ridge Ranch is a wilderness lover's paradise with bobcats and coyote bounding through the scrub brush and bountiful saguaro cacti keeping watch over the area. But guests rarely have time to whip out their binoculars, as they’re usually too busy mending fences and rounding up cattle. A real working cattle ranch, Cactus Ridge Ranch welcomes guests to partake in an authentic slice of cowboy life, to experience its learning opportunities and the joys of a hands-on way of life.
Each day, amateur ranch hands rise at dawn, saddle up, and spend the day shadowing ranchers and tending to the territory's 6,000 acres of land, sometimes riding and sometimes roping or learning ranching techniques. Each speck of dirt that collects on boots and clothes as the days progress is like a badge of honor, each moment of hard work rewarded with feelings of accomplishment and views of a sky full of stars at the end of each day. By clinic’s end, the average cowboy in training can proudly bridle a horse, mend a fence, and tell the difference between a horse and a centaur in disguise.
During their four-day stay, Cactus Ridge Ranch furnishes all guests with lodging and meals. At the end of camp, ranchers conduct an awards ceremony to honor the ablest ranch hands and present all guests with a certificate of completion that can then be folded into a cowboy hat.
Love’n The Kitchen’s experienced staff members and a rotating lineup of guest chefs, including a James Beard Award winner, take up to 50 students on gustatory journeys crafting three-course meals. Each class springboards off a theme, such as breakfast in bed, gluten-free dishes, and six-ingredient recipes, as up to 50 audience members look on, pick up tips, and ask the chefs questions. Students—who range from gourmands to kitchen-shy newbies—leave with the recipes from the class so that they can re-create the meals at home. The school also offers private and offsite classes, leading cooking parties in patrons’ homes, on outdoor kitchens, or during food-truck drag races.
Climbers cling to large, composite structures, strategizing their way up the side of a rocky cliff. They have come to conquer Climbmax Climbing Gym's myriad rock-face combinations and master the art of blindfolded belaying on thick, padded floors. Before challenging themselves on the climb-through cave or scaling an overhang, climbers slip into a harness and climbing shoes for safety.
In addition to climbing areas geared toward beginners and advanced climbers, a children's area features its own pint-sized climb-through cave where youngsters learn to appreciate all aspects of the stimulating sport. Thick padding covers the floors of each climbing area, ensuring safe landings and comfortable, celebratory belly flops from the wall's summit.
Front Range Climbing Company's certified climbing instructors know the best routes around the mountains of the west and the southwest. In Colorado, they may also trek into North Table Mountain Park?a volcanic outcropping near Denver?and North Cheyenne Ca?on, which offers granite crags. In the winter, the waterfalls freeze-over and present an entirely new experience as climbers use ice axes for ice-climbing. The company tailors trips to both beginning and experienced climbers.