Staff & Board of Trustees


Executive Director, Nicola Ripley
(970) 476-0103 x6

Born in the British Isles, Nicola learned a love of alpine plants in the Scottish and Welsh Mountains. Nicola has a BS in Biology and an MS in Ecology. Nicola has traveled widely giving talks, collecting seed and studying alpine flora.

Nicola has been with the Gardens for almost twenty years in different capacities and has been the Director for 7 years. Nicola was Board Member of the American Public Gardens Association for 7 years serving a 2 year term as President. She is the recipient of the 2016 Award of Merit from the North American Rock Garden Society and the 2017 Service Award from the American Public Gardens Association.



Curator of Plant Collections, Nick Courtens
(970) 476-0103 x4 

Born in upstate NY, Nick grew up on an organic vegetable CSA farm where he developed a passion for plants and growing. Nick graduated from Longwood Gardens Professional Gardener Training Program and made his way west for a summer internship at Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in May 2010. Nick is responsible for growing, maintaining, and developing the plant collections. He has traveled around the world studying rock gardens and alpine plants and has given several presentations to plant societies and botanic gardens.


Development Director, Melissa Ebone 
(970) 476-0103 x5 


Operations Manager, Ellen Lorenz
(970) 476-0103 x3

Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Ellen has spent over ten years in Colorado developing her love of alpine environments. Her previous positions at an environmental nonprofit and wedding planning company gave her passion for sustainability and organization. Ellen has been part of a team that won many WeddingWire awards based on their execution of detail and experience, sat on a panel for her knowledge on nonprofit databases,  and is a member of the Pika Project. She graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a degree in Environmental Science and Philosophy. Bring your furry family members by the Education Center to meet her!



Education Director, Nanette Kuich
(970)476-0103 x7

Nanette became a part of Betty Ford Alpine Gardens with the design and building of the Education Center, completed in 2015, and has been responsible for all educational programming. She holds a Master’s Degree in Science Education Free Choice Learning from Oregon State University.

Nanette grew up on the east end of Long Island, NY, received a B.A. in Earth and Space Sciences from State University of New York at Stony Brook, and taught secondary science and math for two years before heading to west to attend graduate school at the University of Texas, Dallas.  She worked as a geologist and geochemist for two major oil companies for 19 years before moving to Colorado.  Plant science became an interest through the Colorado State University Extension’s Master Gardener and Native Plant Master Programs, where she instructed for both.


Marketing & Events Manager, Casey Willis
(970) 476-0103 x8



Horticulturist, Colin Lee








Volunteer Engagement Coordinator, Jeri Powles


Education Assistant, Claire Pirio





Alpine Treasures Shop Manager/Buyer, Susan Swimm



Our office is located at the Education Center in Ford Park
Physical Address & Mailing Address: 
522 South Frontage Road E.
Vail, CO 81657


Board of Trustees

Betty Ford – Honorary Director in Memoriam

Helen Fritch – President Emerita

Susan Frampton, President

Gwen Scalpello, Secretary

Kathy Borgen

Doe Browning  

Holly Elliot

Jeanne Fritch

Sheika Gramshammer

Jennifer Mason

MaryBeth Ottley

Liz Paxson

Carey Firestone Romer 

Board of Trustees Code of Ethics and the Conflict of Interest

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