Trip Finder

Building a Career in the Outdoor Industry: How Working with Moondance Helped Shape Michael Lackey’s Career in Experiential Education

March 13, 2024

As many of you may already know, working at Moondance often requires that you “wear many hats.” This is true for the Trip Leader and an administrative role. In the office, you may find yourself researching new routes or destinations one minute, running budgets on spreadsheets another, and the next maybe testing camp stoves. In the field, you may serve as the leader, a planner, a first responder, a mentor, and countless other interpersonal roles. These diverse skill sets, developed at Moondance, have all served me well working in the ski industry and broader student experiential education.


The skills gained working in the field are a bit more obvious – few jobs are more dynamic than working with students outdoors. Every day as a ski instructor, I applied lessons learned from roaming the Andes in Peru and the Wind River Range with high schoolers while working as a Trip Leader with Moondance. Similarly, Moondance Trip Leader’s essentials like the ability to adapt, problem solve, and constantly evaluate and mitigate risk continue to serve me well while working with Routt County Search and Rescue.


Most importantly, however, my years spent working as the Director of International Operations in the office at Moondance have had some of the biggest impacts on my career and current role. While in this position at Moondance, I researched and developed new itineraries, utilized feedback and incident reviews to improve student and staff experiences and safety, and learned to manage budgets, gear, travel contingencies, and countless other logistical pieces. I learned to work closely with multiple stakeholders – outfitters, guides, insurance companies, airlines, parents, staff, students, and other administrators. These are all essential skills in my current role as Director of Outdoor and Global Programs for Steamboat Mountain School, a K-12 independent school in Steamboat Springs, CO with a strong outdoor program and global education program paired with traditional academics.


Although my career in student experiential education and outdoor recreation is still in its relative infancy, looking back on the last 8 years I can say that the ability and willingness to “wear many hats,” to work on a small team to accomplish big things, is one of the lessons that has most benefited me professionally. Starting as a Moondance Trip Leader, working in the Moondance office as Director of International Operations, transitioning to the ski industry as a ski instructor and ski patroller, and now back in experiential education as Director of Outdoor and Global Programs for Steamboat Mountain School, has been a journey that I could not have predicted or designed, but have thoroughly enjoyed. Working for small, mission-driven organizations is incredibly rewarding, and in my experience, there are few better places to work if you are looking to gain highly functional and versatile professional experience… and it’s pretty fun.