One way to make the Elemental Magic virtue not suck quite so bad is to simply assume that, during character creation, you spent 1 xp per season (exposure or adventure) on an elemental art. That essentially grants an extra 180 xp (60 XP per Form), getting your character up to 10.5 in each art. (Or 57 XP per art, if you want to be technical - you wouldn't get any exposure xp when you're being taught spells or having your Gift opened, I believe.)
There are also a number of spells your magi will most certainly want to learn - elemental warding, for example. (A variant described in Covenents, pg. 104). Essentially, you can design a simple Circle/Ring ward that protects against equally well against Fire/Water/Earth/Air: find the level you want (probably Auram "protect against extreme weather phenomena"), and use that level to protect against all the other elemental forms.
Another effect would be an "Elemental Blast" power, Cr(Ig/Au/Aq/Te) that shoots four different kinds of blasts at a target. (I would personally rule that this would damage as four separate attacks, all landing simultaneously - so the immediate penalites of one doesn't stack on the next.)
Others would include "Levitate Element", "Destroy Element", and "Comprehend Element" (basic Rego, Perdo, and Intelligo guidelines, all smashed together.)
This, IMO, is the real power of Elementalism - the ability to mush together disparate spell descriptions, and combine them into 1 low-level spell effect. This seems almost broken to me, but both Elementalism, as well as spell descriptions that use the technique, are fairly clear that it's only +1 magnitude for each prerequisite, even if it's adding a completely new spell guideline - which is what Elementalism allows you to ignore, as long as it's in a different Elemental Form.
Your GM may want to restrict you to having spell guidelines that actually do similar things - the aforementioned Circle/Ring effect is all about warding, for example. Or alternately, declare that "simple" combinations are only +1 magnitude complexity (which Elementalism can cancel out), but more complicated combos, even if only using 1 extra Form, will be additionally complex. Personally, I don't have a problem with that interpretation.