32 Degrees: Life as a Learning Connection

This “Last Run” column, written by PSIA-AASI Lead Writer Peter Kray, appears in the Winter 2024 Issue of 32 Degrees.


U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame member Otto Schniebs was a legendary ski coach and author of several books, including Modern Ski Technique. He inspired thousands of skiers with the oft-repeated comment, “Skiing is not just a sport; it is a way of life.”

It’s a testament that supports our own association’s vision – “Create Lifelong Adventures Through Education.” Which got me thinking about the Learning Connection Model (LCM), PSIA-AASI’s instructional framework emphasizing the perfect blend of people, teaching, and technical skills as essential elements in creating a deeper connection between every teacher and student.

I’m a big fan of the LCM. I think it applies to every teaching environment. Recently, I began wondering how it informs my own life. So much so that my wife, Catherine, and I did a little checklist for where we might be successfully applying the Learning Connection in our daily routine, and where we might need some work.


This might be my strongest aspect of the LCM diagram, because I wake up wondering what I can write next about snowsports instruction and all the intrinsic wonders of the ski and snowboard experience.

Specifically, I want to hear every skier and snowboarder’s story – especially about how and why they love this sport. So I ask a lot of questions about that.

Which means that if you don’t like to talk, I may come on a little strong when we first board the lift. But if you have some adventures to share, I can’t wait to hear all about them.

This interest in people as living, breathing, evolving storylines extends to wanting to communicate with new neighbors, hikers on the trail, or the Uber driver. It’s also why it made me sad when Catherine said the foreman of our annual landscaping crew told her, “You know, you’re the only people who ever ask us how we are.”

Commerce should not be a barrier to community. It should actually be one of the key things that ties us together – opening the door for a shared cup of coffee, some additional wisdom that might have gone unlearned, and maybe even friendship.

I believe PSIA-AASI’s continued focus on developing people skills provides the opportunity for all of that.


With our two big Labrador Retrievers, Catherine and I also take a lot of dog classes. The people skills of the instructors are consistent, but the teaching skills often differ according to the personal learning needs of each of us.

Catherine learns visually and needs to see rather than hear the task. I learn by first failing, then repeating the drill, and am frustrated by being corrected the moment I start.

I think this is where “decision-making” as an overarching element of the LCM is making the most impact.

As PSIA Alpine Team member Brian Smith noted, “At every Interski, PSIA-AASI delivers a key innovation to help advance snowsports instruction. At Interski 2023 in Finland, that innovation was how we can use decision-making to tailor what we’re presenting to each student and how they’re learning.”

In this age of quick-hit digital media, 10-second video clips, and short attention spans, I continue to hone my decision-making process with the choice of every word I write.


In my home, this is the part of the LCM where we fall off the map. Not regarding our professional skills, but in understanding how to repair modern conveniences the moment they stop augmenting our daily lives.

Which is funny to me, because many of the ski and snowboard instructors I admire the most are also technically talented in their careers outside of snowsports – as builders, carpenters, connoisseurs, guides, musicians, and therapists.

Of course, they are also constantly working to be better on the slopes – in every aspect of how they ride and how they teach. Ask them what they are focused on improving, and they will answer in an instant.

With a 20+-year-old house, Catherine and I are also now enjoying learning about plumbing, caulking, sanding, and grouting. Beginning to address each challenge was the hardest part.

Which brings us back to the start. There is always the opportunity to learn in your life, especially if that way of life is intrinsically tied to your favorite sport.