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

“What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” The answer to this question brought Melissa Ebone, Development Director, to Colorado almost a decade ago. She discovered the call of the mountains during her time as a counselor at Cheley Colorado Camps in Estes Park, CO and had dreams to make the west her full-time home. She recently graduated from ILD, the Institute for Leaders in Development, a professional program for fundraisers through Denver University. When she’s not in the office, you can often find her guiding backcountry and international expeditions, sharing her love of discovery and the outdoors with young people from around the world.             

Before arriving at Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, Melissa was leading the fundraising and community partner efforts at the Children’s Hospital Colorado Burn Camps Program. This is a rehabilitative medical speciality program designed to help pediatric burn survivors heal together in a community of their peers. Wherever she is, Melissa loves building community and creating good together.


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. 
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!   


Horticulturist, Colin Lee
My interest in plants all began my junior year in high school when my science teacher asked me to help choose a subject to learn about for a semester in our class. With inspiration from my mother’s garden and trips to botanic gardens, I chose botany. Little did I know, that simple choice would set me on a career path to become a horticulturist at Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. As soon as that semester in high school ended I knew I’d be studying plant science in college. I started my collegiate studies at Metropolitan State College of Denver studying plant biology, and eventually transferred to Colorado State University in Fort Collins where I obtained my degree in horticulture and a minor in botany. I found Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in 2016 when I was granted an internship opportunity during my junior year at CSU, and each summer since then I have been asked to come back as seasonal staff to help the gardens continue to grow and bloom. I am honored to become a part of BFAG’s full time staff and to continue my pursuit in becoming a professional horticulturist. I look forward to exploring my potential here at the gardens as well as exploring more of the Rocky Mountains that I’ve always called home.  I am very grateful and humbled in where I am and how I got here, and I look forward to working with all types of plants and people in this amazing alpine environment we have here in Vail, Colorado.
Volunteer Engagement Coordinator, Jeri Powles

A Midwest girl who wanted to live in the mountains since early childhood, Jeri found the Gardens not long after moving here permanently. She joined the staff in 2011 as manager of the schoolhouse gift shop and become the Volunteer Engagement Coordinator in 2014.
A Colorado Master Gardener, Jeri has a degree in secondary education from The University of Iowa, has had several careers including being a successful entrepreneur and has volunteered for several organizations and nonprofits throughout her life.

Alpine Treasures Shop Manager/Buyer, Susan Swimm

Board of Trustees

Betty Ford – Honorary Director in Memoriam

Helen Fritch – President & Founder in Memoriam

Susan Frampton, President

Gwen Scalpello, Secretary

Mary Beth Ottley, Treasurer

Kelly Bronfman

Kathy Borgen

Doe Browning

Pedro Campos 

Holly Elliott

Jeanne Fritch

Sheika Gramshammer

Dick Liebhaber

Jennifer Mason – Town of Vail

Liz Paxson


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


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