Boothbay native Ella Spear making her mark in US Junior National Alpine Ski Speed Championships
A Boothbay teenager is dreaming about skiing competitively all over the globe. Since age 7, Ella Spear has skied Maine’s mountains with her family. Now 18, Spear is competing against the nation’s top junior skiers. In March, she finished 14th in the slalom and 11th in the giant slalom at the U.S. National Junior Championships.
The downhill, super-G and Alpine combined events were held March 16-21 at Sugarloaf Mountain ski resort. The championships shifted to Waterville Valley, New Hampshire for slalom, giant slalom and parallel slalom races March 23-26.
Spear has been serious about skiing ever since entering her first race at Lost Valley Ski Area in Auburn. Encouraged by her father, Lester Spear, who was also a competitive skier, she won her first race and received an amazing reward: pizza. From there, thoughts of winning more pizza and accolades fueled the passion for her devotion to skiing down hills as fast as she can.
Six years ago, she began splitting her time between Boothbay Region schools and the Carrabassett Valley Academy near Sugarloaf USA ski resort. CVA began in 1982 as a five-month winter term tutorial program charged with developing young athletes on the Greek ideal of “body, mind and spirit.” The program provides young athletes with a college preparatory program and an intensive training regimen.
As a seventh grader, Spear spent four months training at CVA. In the next two years, she spent five months as an eighth grader and seven as a freshman. As a sophomore, she became a full-time academy student. For Spear, the high-level training is geared toward skiing on the NOR-AM skiing circuit held throughout North America. Next year, Spear plans on attending Colby College and skiing on its ski team.
“That’s my immediate goal. I want to make a name for myself on the NOR-AM circuit and hopefully earn a spot on the national World Cup team,” she said.
Skiing on the international circuit would mean competing against the world’s best and, possibly, skiing in the Olympics. “Ideally, that’s the end game, but I’m not thinking about that now. My focus is on training and college, but that definitely would be a dream come true,” Spear said.
As a junior national skier, Spear is already involved with a rigorous training regimen. She skis an estimated 109 days a year. At the academy, she trains four hours a day. Prior to attending CVA, Spear would travel several times a week to train at a local mountain before her family decided CVA would be the best place for her education and skiing.
The school regimen includes morning classes six days a week followed by training. The school also sends students to train in Austria, as well as Mount Hood in Oregon and Mammouth Mountain in California. Her training isn’t only physical, it has a mental component. She reviews her performance with her coaches and father to better understand her technique. Spear likens her video review to solving a difficult puzzle. “I like to solve problems or complete a difficult puzzle. We look at the video and see ways I could’ve come out of a gate or handled a course better.”
This fall, she leaves for Waterville and begins life as a college student. Spear hasn’t selected a major, but is considering either business or sociology. “Colby is a great choice for me because it checks a lot of boxes. It has a great academic program and I really like the ski program,” she said.
Once her competitive ski days end, Spear plans on a sales career or operating her own small business.