our team

MWS 2019 - 2020 STAFF


Co-founder and Executive Director

I grew up in Washington State where I was fortunate to spend my youth camping with my family, catching salmon and water skiing on the Puget Sound, snow skiing in the Cascades, and being a well rounded pacific northwest kid. In college I fell in love with rock climbing and alpine mountaineering, a journey that led to my career in outdoor education. I have over 1000 program days field instructing and course directing for a variety of outdoor educational programs; the majority of my time in the wild places of the American west for Outward Bound, where I have worked in the mountains, rivers, canyons, and deserts instructing mountaineering, rock climbing, and canyoneering courses. I have college degrees in Psychology, Business Administration, and a Masters in Ecological Design, as well as a USCG Master's Captains License.

I live in Bozeman with my wife, Nicole, and our son, Crusoe, and high energy herding dog, Odin. Outside of my work and family life, my current outdoor interests are long distance trail running with my dog, bow hunting, backcountry skiing, and fly fishing on Montana's amazing rivers.

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Co-founder and Program Director

I was born and raised in Montana and grew up exploring wild spaces from the Bears Paw to the Beartooth Mountains. I was lucky enough to spend my youth skiing, hiking and climbing in many wild areas of Montana. I have worked as an educator in many capacities primarily in the backcountry; instructing kayaking and climbing and spent some time teaching English in Tanzania, Africa. I am a former wilderness instructor for "at- risk" youth programs and worked as a field instructor for multiple wilderness adventure programs in the mountain west. In addition to my work with youth, I also worked professionally as a sea kayak guide and as a climbing instructor. I have taught wilderness medicine courses for Aerie Backcountry Medicine for over 10 years teaching around the United States, India, China, Tibet and in Morocco. During the winters I have spent the last decade working as a professional ski patroller and avalanche rescue dog handler and currently work at Bridger Bowl. My love of education and desire to always keep learning lead me back to school, to receive a Masters Degree in Education with a focus on place-based learning from the University of Montana. I live in Bozeman with my wife and two dogs, trying to scratch out time to ski, hunt and climb between working and learning to garden.

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Communications Manager

I was fortunate to be born and raised in beautiful Western Montana. Living in the Bitterroot Valley provided me the opportunity to spend my childhood climbing, skiing, camping, hunting and canoeing all over Montana. After high school I completed an Outward Bound course before heading to college where I received a degree in Geography and GIS/Remote Sensing Imagery. I’ve spent time adventuring throughout the US, Central America, Canada, Iceland, India, Nepal, Pakistan, China and Tibet. I've worn a variety of different career hats in my life however my passion for Montana's wild spaces and helping others develop a relationship with their environment and community are just a few of the many reasons I am so happy to be a part of the Montana Wilderness School team as Communications Manager & Development Assistant.

When not working with the MWS team or with Mystery Ranch Backpacks as a technical document developer, I am an illustration artist and avid gardener. I try to make as much time as possible for my dog Hawk and trail running, skiing, hunting and biking!

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Operations Manager

It all started with feeling like an outsider. I have moved and traveled extensively across the globe and the only constant was the outdoors. My answer to the question, “Where are you from?” became a long list of states and countries. It starts with Colorado, Alaska, Texas, Trinidad (West Indies), Minnesota, Azerbaijan, and California. Now, I say I am from Montana.

Formerly, I worked with Voyageur Outward Bound in Ely, Minnesota and began an extensive journey of self-understanding. I spent 120+ days in the field every year for five years working with youth and veterans seeking to find leadership skills and a unified purpose. Then I shifted to Big Sky Youth Empowerment in Bozeman and was able to align the wilderness learnings with teenagers and adults in my immediate community. Both programs enhanced lives from dealing directly with adversity.

The opportunity to explore and play in the outdoors became the connection between my community and myself and the greatest learning of all was that: nature is a place where we all fit in amongst the chaos of wildness.

I am honored to be a part of MWS and to be able to do just that.

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Mountain Program Manager

I grew up playing in the mountains of New Hampshire where my mother, a former Outward Bound instructor, took me on my first backpacking trip at age 10. I vividly remember hiking 10 million miles to our camp with a 150 pound pack (a three mile hike with a 20 pound pack…it’s all relative to a 10 year old), getting my mind blown by the idea of cooking mac and cheese without a proper kitchen, and nearly eating it face-first into a big pile of rocks on the way down.

I moved West in 2010 to attend Colorado College where I majored in Environmental Science. Between classes, I played Ultimate Frisbee on the CC club team, learned how to rock climb, and discovered the joy of skiing powder. Since graduation, I’ve worked as a field instructor for the Colorado Outward Bound School, spent time as a ski instructor, and taught high school math and physics at the Telluride Mountain School. I am also an assistant rock guide through the American Mountain Guides Association, an LNT Master Educator, and EMT-B in the state of Montana. In addition to my work at MWS I teach high school math at a small independent school in Bozeman.

When I’m not working, you can likely find me searching out splitter crack climbs in the desert, chasing untracked snow on big mountains, improvising elaborate meals on a camp stove, or running around the hills with my camera.

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Kodee Cloninger

Outreach and Admissions Manager

Growing up in Montana I quickly developed an affinity for the outdoors and the thrill of exploration and play.

Curiosity about the human and natural world took me outside of my home state to many adventures throughout Latin America, Europe, Asia, New Zealand, and the eastern UnitedStates. I landed myself on the East Coast after I discovered my passion for education while teaching English in Guatemala and simultaneously realizing I could cultivate that passion outside the classroom walls. Since then, I have navigated my eagerness for education and the outdoors by finding roles as an experiential educator and program director with different environmental education schools on the East Coast, while supplementing my summers leading international experiential programs with high schoolers.

Through my experiencesI have found that there is nothing more valuable than connecting youth to the natural world and the adventures to be had in it. Montana has always called me back because of its wild spaces and to be able to share that with future generations has me thrilled to be a part of the MWS team as the Admissions andOutreach Manager.  

When I am not with the MWS team you can find me hiking, running, biking, and cross country skiing in the many outdoor spaces of Bozeman, practicing yoga, or baking bread!

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Hannah Marshall

Wilderness Program Manager

The first mountains I fell in love with were the Northern Presidentials, near where I grew up in New Hampshire. There I learned to ski, climb, and to appreciate long, rainy rambles with my family. After many stints as a hut keeper and trail crew worker in my home range I attended school at Colorado College, where I earned a degree in geology and ‘studied’ climbing.

After graduating I worked as an instructor for the Colorado Outward Bound School, which drew me into the mountain-desert landscape of the southwest.  There I chased ski descents and desert rock climbs, working intermittently on mine reclamation research projects and as a hut keeper in the San Juan Mountains. I moved to Bozeman last year to work for MWS, and am thrilled to be back for another season! In addition to working for MWS, I coordinate first year orientation trips for Montana State University’s Outdoor Recreation Program.

When I’m not working, you can find me scouring weather charts for favorable climbing and skiing conditions, painting the mountain landscape, and trail running around Bozeman.

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Medical Advisor

Steve has had the good fortune of integrating interests in wilderness, medicine, travel and youth development beginning with the outdoor recreation program at UC Berkeley, where he earned a BS in resource economics and a minor in writing. From the University of Montana, he earned a BA in biology with an emphasis in riparian ecology. In between, he served various roles for urban and rural youth corps, taught climbing and guided river trips in the US and Central America. While a medical student at the University of New Mexico, he initiated research in acute mountain sickness and subsequently volunteered for the Himalayan Rescue Association in Pheriche and with the Everest ER. He currently is the co-medical director for the Hardrock 100 and serves as physician advisor for youth development groups and wilderness outfitters. He continues to teach wilderness medicine for WMA and other organizations in and outside the US. When not at work, he drafts his son through the varied terrain of the Northern Rockies.

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2019 seasonal STAFF

Krissy Ferriter

Student Outreach Coordinator

Growing up in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts, I inherited a deep appreciation for natural beauty, biodiversity, and outdoor recreation. After studying abroad in Switzerland, my love for wild places and skiing took me northward to the University of Vermont. Upon completing a thru-hike of Vermont’s 270-mile Long Trail and with my B.S. in Environmental Studies in hand, I spent several years working in various outdoor education, conservation, research, and program management capacities in British Columbia, Florida, Alaska, Montana, and Nevada. During this time, I also made multiple trips to Central and South America. In 2011, I completed a Master of Science degree in Forest Resources at the University of Washington and have lived in Montana ever since. Missoula has brought opportunities for me to work with the Montana Campus Compact, the city’s Urban Forestry Division, Adventure Life, and 5th House Consulting.

With two young children of my own, I am excited to connect students with wilderness expeditions! When not spreading the word about MWS in the Missoula area, you’ll likely find me exploring the Bitterroot or Rattlesnake with my family and Australian cattle dog, Clyde, or at our cabin near the Pintler Mountains. When not hiking, biking, kayaking, fly fishing, or skiing, I also enjoy practicing yoga, baking, and curling up with a good book.

Ross Lesslie

Student Outreach Coordinator

I was lucky to have spent my childhood moving around and experiencing different parts of the world. My family moved from England to Switzerland to California, where I spent most of my teenage years before adventuring off to Asia and Australia. When I returned to the US, I found myself drawn to the beautiful mountainous states of Washington and Montana.  During so many moves, one thing was consistent; free time was spent outdoors. Growing up my interests included sailing, mountain biking and skiing, and as I got older, that list only grew to include rock climbing, backpacking and mountaineering.  

I developed my passion for rock climbing during college and dare say I may have put more energy into my climbs than my education.  After graduating from San Francisco State University in CA, I took a 2 year trip to Asia where I stumbled upon a job as a rock climbing and sea kayaking guide in Vietnam.  Upon my return to the states, I found my calling leading trips with Outward Bound in the North Cascades in WA in the Summer and teaching young rippers to shred cold smoke at Bridger Bowl in the Winter.

When not working for MWS, I am typically exploring alpine lakes, challenging my relationship with gravity or plotting my next adventure abroad with my partner Theresa.


Lead Paddling Instructor and Expedition Wrangler

I am stoked to be coming back for a third summer at MWS! I am from Minnesota where my love of the outdoors started.  In high school I had the incredible chance to take a class that combined environmental science, ecology, and outdoor recreation. The capstone of the class was spending four days winter camping in the Boundary Waters Wilderness where we faced 50+mph winds and sub zero temperatures. That class and especially that trip made me fall in love with outdoor recreation and set me off on the career path I am on now. I went to college at the University of Minnesota Duluth where I studied Environmental and Outdoor Education. The Outdoor Program at UMD became my community as I got involved with leading day hikes across the city, teaching 3rd graders how to tap maple trees, and leading a spring break backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail. During my summers I sought out more experience by working at wilderness tripping camps in the Boundary Waters, where I fell in love with leading teens on canoeing, rock climbing, and backpacking trips. In the winter of 2015/16 I had the opportunity to spend my winter with 20 sled dogs and 6 fellow staff members at, where we hosted groups and took them on dog sled, ski, and snowshoe outings. I recently moved to Portland, Oregon and have been enjoying the new scenery and spending my free time kayaking the many rivers of the Pacific Northwest and skiing on Mt. Hood. Looking forward to many days on the water, nights in the tent, and good conversations with my students and co-instructors.


Field Instructor and Expedition Wrangler

Andrew grew up in Boulder, Colorado, adventuring in the mountains and developing a deep love for the beauty and power of mountains and wild places. While studying physics and secondary education at the University of Colorado, he chanced upon a job and began to lead trips for a science-based outdoor program for youth. Since then, he has been lucky enough to lead trips all around the West, camping, backpacking, rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, and even fossil hunting! When Andrew’s not on course, you will likely find him reading corny sci-fi, playing the guitar, or trying to squeeze one more run out of a ski day.


Field Instructor

My roots were nourished in the front range of Colorado instilling a deep fault of adventure and love for the natural world. This love has brought me to many spectacular and wild places and it is my great pleasure and passion to share these experiences and places with others. I strive to do this through different work environments including, adjunct instructing for Prescott Colleges winter and Fall block courses, mountain guiding on Mt Shasta, and spending time with Montana’s youth in wild places through the Montana Wilderness School. For myself, feeding the soul has always involved good food, making art, playing with animals, and getting lost in the music. However, what my soul is most hungry for though, besides chocolate, is to connect with the landscape. Whether immersed in a fall line of waist deep powder, weaving my tires through rocks and roots while ascending on single
track, or reacting to the flow of water and waves crashing over my boat I aspire to connect students to the landscape and pass forth the touch of adventure. “Through the discovery of new skills, new knowledge, and new environments, one may also discover a new self."


Field Instructor

Growing up in Colorado I was extremely fortunate to have the Rockies and surrounding ecosystems as my playground. Spending my weekends camping, skiing, and hiking with family and friends inspired a passion for the outdoors and exploration in our wild places. I attended Colorado State University where I became immersed in and passionate about outdoor and environmental education. I became an instructor for the Outdoor Program where I had the opportunity to lead and instruct peers on various trips from backcountry skiing, to rock climbing and backpacking. During this time, I also became very involved with environmental education and I spent my time leading and teaching 4th and 5th grade students in the many ecosystems of Northern Colorado hoping to inspire future generations of environmental advocates and outdoor enthusiasts. Following graduation, I ran north to Southeast Alaska where I worked as a research and teaching assistant for a small field school. I spent my summer sea kayaking, living in a tent, researching local issues in public lands management and conservation, supporting the school’s students, and falling in love with place based, experiential education. I have since been living in and falling in love with Montana, its communities, and it’s wild places. During the winter I get to share my passion for skiing as a ski instructor at Big Sky, and I am incredibly excited to be returning for another summer with MWS! When I’m not working, you can probably find me out skiing, running any of Bozeman’s amazing trails, climbing with friends, or in my kitchen cooking up something yummy.

Christie Conway

Field Instructor

My East Coast friends and family have been encouraging me to explore the West for years, and I finally made the move in December to be a ski instructor at Big Sky Resort.  I landed in Montana originally from North Carolina, via 4 years in New Hampshire and Maine.  Although I didn't grow up having many outdoor experiences, living in western NC fostered a deep love and appreciation for mountains within me.  I went on my first backpacking trip as an incoming freshman before I started at Appalachian State University, and I loved it and will be forever grateful for that experience.  

It wasn't until I moved to New Hampshire in 2015 for an Interpretive Ranger position with the Student Conservation Association that I really started to immerse myself in an outdoor lifestyle.  From there, I worked two winters with Maine Huts and Trails, and then thrived in the White Mountains of NH for two years while working for the Appalachian Mountain Club at the base of Mt. Washington.  The AMC offered me amazing experiences while I taught environmental education and guided backcountry teen adventure trips for 2 years.  I capped off my time in New England by becoming a Registered Maine Guide for the AMC in the remote 100-Mile Wilderness area, where I guided xc-ski trips, fly-fishing trips, hikes up Mt. Katahdin, and other Maine adventures that were based out of beautiful lodges tucked away deep in the Maine woods.  

I'm stoked to be paddling on Montana's rivers with students this summer, and on my off time I hope to practice leading trad climbs, hike big mountains, and explore just how beautiful my first summer out West will be!


Field Instructor

I grew up running around outside with my sisters in California and have spent the last 8 years between the mountains of Montana and the Sierra Nevada. I have been lucky enough to work outside as a ski patroller, educator and caterer!

These days I spend my summers with MWS students in the field and sharing my love of cooking for people with Seasonal Montana. In the winters you can find me teaching skiing and avalanche education while finishing my degree at MSU in GIS.

In my free time I enjoy mountain biking, pie baking and berry picking, especially when I can do all three in a day.

Ryan Milling

Field Instructor

I moved to Montana in 2012 to chase snow and finish my undergraduate degree. Since coming to Montana I became enthralled with the vast public lands and opportunities for solitude and beauty. My passions lie in outdoor education, teaching, and emergency medicine. Summers find me living out of my truck teaching extended wilderness trips for MWS, NOLS, as well as guiding commercially on the Salmon River in Idaho's Frank Church Wilderness. Winter and Spring I teach emergency medicine, and avalanche education for Aerie Backcountry Medicine. Spending time in the outdoors allows me to think clearly, find solace, and provide opportunities for self discovery and learning. I am excited to be joining MWS this season to serve the communities of Montana. When not teaching or guiding, I enjoy whitewater kayaking, climbing, ski touring, and swing dancing. This fall I start a whole new journey towards becoming a Nurse.

Joseph Hoff

Field Instructor

With camera in tow, and a commitment to personal growth, in body, heart, and mind, I find myself looking inward and at other times searching miles, by plane or foot, over mountains to fulfill my personal and professional goals. My inspirations and experiences showcase an earnest desire to marry my love for the Art’s and Outdoor/Athletic Performance. As Artist and Art Instructor (High School Visual Arts & Department Chair), as a distance athlete (Trail Marathon and Triathlon) and coach (High School Cross Country and Track), few things are more satisfying than carrying into the back country the necessary equipment and mental fortitude to capture the beauty we are so
privileged to interact with.

This journey has brought me to a greater understanding of the benefits of Experiential Education. Its utility extends beyond reflective practice and serves to catalyze future inspiration. It drives me to classrooms both indoor and out, with an earnest desire to make a difference in the lives of people. I seek to lead individuals to become well rounded, responsible citizens, and ethical leaders, born out of the Montana Wilderness School. I know that every opportunity to better myself, express gratitude, and share my expertise, refines my ability to aid the Montana Wilderness School’s mission to “...foster growth and cultivate a conservation ethic through connecting with wild places".

Ryan Peters

Field Instructor

My relationship with wild spaces began in Minnesota’s million acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness; time spent here in my teenage and college years was formative, nurturing a passion & need for a life lived outside and giving rise to a desire to share it with others. I return to Minnesota annually to canoe, but Bozeman became my home in 2014 the week after graduating from Saint John’s University in Collegeville, MN (BA Biology, Psychology). Southwest Montana has offered so many ways to get outside. Though I moved here to ski and to climb, Fly Fishing has become my primary passion; I have worked as a guide here in Montana, and enjoy chasing trout up wild rivers both here and abroad. I love sharing the sport with others. Formerly, I worked for REI here in Bozeman helping folks get outside. I continue to instruct at the local climbing gym – Spire – and get up in the alpine whenever I can. In addition to fishing, climbing, and skiing, I enjoy mountain biking, trail running & hunting all over Montana. I love working with high school age youth, and couldn’t be more excited to be a part of the amazing expeditionary experiences MWS offers its students.

Serena Thiel


In the days of her youth in Chicago, Illinois, Rena was often described as the ‘loudest’ of her mother’s six children. A self-described philosopher and comedian, she has continued to be loud in the days of her young adulthood. Aside from this pastime, she enjoys long-distance bike travel, Vinyasa yoga, and quoting Lord of the Rings to literally anyone who will listen. She is very excited to join the MWS team for the season.

Harrison Bly


I was fortunate enough to grow up in Washington State, nestled smack dab in the middle of the Olympic National Park and the Cascade Mountain Range. Even though I was so close growing up, the mountains and wilderness of the Pacific Northwest intimidated me and I spent far too little time exploring my home. That all changed for me after I found the outdoor community in my town during my time at The Evergreen State College. The wonderful people in that community shared their knowledge and their love for the outdoors, starting me down a path the led me here to Montana. Out here in Montana I have focused on my outdoor pursuits and have spent my last few years taking in all that the beautiful mountains that surround us provide. In my free time I enjoy skiing, trail running, climbing, fishing, mountain biking and being outside as much as possible. I am beyond excited to share my experiences and my love for the wilderness with everyone at Montana Wilderness School.

Luke Elliott


I was born and raised in the corn filled flatlands of central Indiana but learned to love the outdoors at a young age while swatting mosquitos on the lakes of Minnesota and Wisconsin. It was in a canoe where my love of wilderness tripping bloomed, but my passion has led me all over the continent backpacking parts of the Appalachian Trail, SeaKayaking on Lake Superior, and canoeing in Northern Saskatchewan.

Eventually the allure of the mountains was too much, and I moved toBozeman to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology and a focus inMandarin studies. When I am not trying to keep up with my friends on skis or identifying wildflowers, I am probably trying to finally understand math. Over the past three summers I have blessed with the opportunity to work as a leader in northern Wisconsin and given a chance to help others develop a connection to the outdoors, and I am thrilled to be continuing that work here in Montana.

Janine Welton

Field Instructor

Raised in Alberta and Washington’s Okanogan Valley, I was introduced to the wonders of physical exploration at a young age. I was lucky to have parents who took me skiing, biking, swimming, and paddling through the landscapes of my youth and my love of self-propelled activity, wild places and pika has only grown since. As a dual citizen, I’ve moved between Canada and the United States my entire life. I began attending the University of British Columbia in Vancouver after high school and spent a year on the north coast of BC where I learned to love rain and gigantic trees. Homesick for the Rocky Mountains, I moved to Missoula in 2013 to complete my B.Sc. in natural resource conservation. I’ve worked for land management agencies as a fire fighter, wilderness ranger, and guide. Instructing for the Montana Wilderness School has allowed me to combine my greatest passions: education and mountaineering. I’m looking forward to working with the supportive team of staff again this season and being challenged and inspired by my students!

Janine Welton

Field Instructor

Raised in Alberta and Washington’s Okanogan Valley, I was introduced to the wonders of physical exploration at a young age. I was lucky to have parents who took me skiing, biking, swimming, and paddling through the landscapes of my youth and my love of self-propelled activity, wild places and pika has only grown since. As a dual citizen, I’ve moved between Canada and the United States my entire life. I began attending the University of British Columbia in Vancouver after high school and spent a year on the north coast of BC where I learned to love rain and gigantic trees. Homesick for the Rocky Mountains, I moved to Missoula in 2013 to complete my B.Sc. in natural resource conservation. I’ve worked for land management agencies as a fire fighter, wilderness ranger, and guide. Instructing for the Montana Wilderness School has allowed me to combine my greatest passions: education and mountaineering. I’m looking forward to working with the supportive team of staff again this season and being challenged and inspired by my students!

Montana Wilderness School
P.O. Box 1183
Bozeman, MT 59771
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