Four-year-old Elise Luce skidded to a stop at the base of Sugarloaf Mountain and proudly exclaimed to her mother, “I just skied Gondy Line,” meaning the Gondola Line trail, a double black diamond, for experts only.
“Yeah, right,” said Jane Luce, who remained skeptical until a ski instructor informed her that yes, her daughter not only negotiated the steep terrain but skied it well.
Even now, 13 years later, Gondola Line remains Elise’s favorite trail.
“My wife couldn’t quite believe it,” said Bob Luce, the Mt. Abram High Alpine coach who has guided all four of their daughters down snowy slopes strewn with slalom gates. “She doesn’t like to ski it herself.”
Elise is the last in a line of four Luce girls who have distinguished themselves on the ski mountains of Maine. She is also the most decorated, having swept the Class B slalom and giant slalom state championships for the second year in a row to bring her career total to five.
The icing on her cake came when Mt. Abram also won the Class B Alpine title, albeit in a tie with Yarmouth after the disqualification of a Presque Isle skier allowed the Clippers to erase a one-point deficit.
“Winning as a team is better,” said Elise Luce, a junior. “It’s nice they were all up there (on the podium) with me. Winning as a team is different from just winning by yourself.”
For the second straight year, Luce was also the top qualifier from Maine for the Eastern high school championships, held at Cannon Mountain, N.H. She placed eighth in slalom, the first skier from Maine.
She is our choice as Maine Sunday Telegram female skier of the year.
“For her, it’s all about having fun,” said Bob Luce. “The biggest struggle we’ve always had with her is having your hands down and doing pole plants. I’ll say, ‘How come you don’t do them, Elise?’ She’ll say, ‘Well, they’re not fun.’ “
Elise got the nod over Edward Little senior Allarie Lever, who swept the Class A Alpine titles and beat Luce early in the season, but finished just behind her when the top Alpine skiers from all three state meets gathered to compete for Eastern berths.
One reason Luce struggled early was a change in equipment — boots that forced her farther forward, and longer skis with a wider turning radius. The learning curve was frustrating and took longer than she would have liked.
“In the beginning I felt like, ‘I can’t do these,’” she said. “Then I was like, ‘Oh, it’s not that bad.’ It slowly got better.”
Besides, she said, “I knew I wasn’t going to be allowed to go back” to her old skis, which were easier to turn but not as fast. Everything came together for the state meet in February, for Luce and for Mt. Abram, whose team included a Spanish exchange student who grew up skiing in the Pyrenees.
Anna Pelegay lives with the Luces, who have sent Erica (Castleton State), Emily (Colby Sawyer) and Erin (Castleton) to college skiing. While in high school, Emily won a slalom and two giant slalom state titles. Erin won a slalom state title.
“It’s like I have another sister,” Elise said of Pelegay.
Plans to visit the Pelegays in Barcelona are in the works. In the meantime, Luce is busy with softball, a sport she last played in middle school. She also plays soccer, but skiing remains the family passion. Growing up within 15 minutes of the Sugarloaf lifts means Luce can — and does — ski seven days a week.
“Always chasing older sisters,” Bob Luce said, “gives the younger ones an advantage.”
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: