Vail Valley Character: Glen Ellison
Special to the Vail Daily
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado –In 1980, when Glen Ellison made Vail his home, the area wasn’t yet known for its summers, or sophisticated landscapes.
He has since witnessed and been an integral part of the maturation of Vail’s landscape industry. Due to the dramatic terrain, climate and soil, Vail can be both a challenging and rewarding location for landscape architecture. This has created a niche for Land Designs as one of the larger landscape design, build and maintenance companies serving high-elevation resort towns throughout Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.
When did you arrive in Vail?
Starting in 1972, every winter, spring break and summer vacation, seven of us would pack into the family station wagon and drive 24 hours to Vail. I grew an attachment to Vail during those years and interned here the summer before graduating college. In 1980, after marrying my high school sweetheart, I made a permanent move to Vail and began my career.
How did you end up founding a landscape architecture business?
I’ve had a passion for the business since I was 14 and worked at a landscape/nursery operation in Mansfield, Ohio. That job eventually gave me hands on and practical experience to create client drawings. After putting myself through college at Ohio State, earning a horticulture degree but lacking start-up capital, I managed deposits from three small jobs to buy the tools and product that I needed to get started. In those days I regularly worked 24-hour days out of my Toyota pick up truck, only coming home for a dinner break.
How has your business grown?
In the 1980s Vail was a winter town without extensive landscapes, so local landscape architecture matured with the development of Beaver Creek and its design guidelines. We worked on one of the first Beaver Creek lots that included architectural landscape design plans of the level not yet seen here.
Architect Jim Morter asked me to help develop the Tyrolean Inn’s landscape. That led to more architects including us in their projects and our initial growth. More recently, we have reorganized into seven business units, each with its own business plan.
The Landscape Design unit has seen the greatest change with the addition of talented landscape architect David Berg, who has transformed the business by implementing progressive technology. We now provide CAD drawings for seamless integration with the architect’s drawings.
I’m now learning from those whom I mentored, and am able to get back to where it all started – into the community to continue relationships with clients, architects and contractors, many of whom have become friends over the years.
Is there a project of which you are most proud?
This work is so fascinating and challenging because each project is different, starting with a unique piece of land and completely new pallet to create upon.
Two (out of 20-plus) award-winning projects stand out for different reasons. One is the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. We had the opportunity to create and build this landscape originally and then again with the renovation. This is a special place because of the alpine spirit we captured in the outdoor setting, and because it is a place where community and visitors come together to enjoy something unique to the area – a stimulation of all the aesthetic senses.
A green roof we created in Steamboat Springs also stands out. This was the first time that the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado ever awarded a perfect score to a project. They created the presidential award specifically because of this project. And, just this month we won another grand award from the organization for a project in Cordillera.
Liana Moore owns Kaleidos Marketing Group, which represents Land Designs by Ellison.