The End of an Era

 Ribbon cutting ceremony for the original Cross Country Connection, when it opened its doors in West Laramie in 1981.

Ribbon cutting ceremony for the original Cross Country Connection, when it opened its doors in West Laramie in 1981.

By Willow

In 1981, Ken Cramer moved to Laramie from upstate New York, rented a little shack in West Laramie and started renting cross-country skis.

Ken had been advising the outing club at Colgate College, but he wanted to live out west. Laramie seemed a good pick: it was a college town, it had no outdoor program and - most importantly, for someone opening a ski shop - it had good winters. 

In the early years, Cross Country Connection was only open during ski season. Come spring, Ken would close up shop and guide rafting trips.

Eventually, the store grew to include hiking, camping and climbing gear and opened its doors year-round. By the early 1990s, it had outgrown the 600-square-foot space in West Laramie and moved downtown.

In the nearly four decades it's been in business, Cross Country Connection has become a beloved fixture in the community. It's grown from a one-man band to a team of six; it's outfitted countless outdoor enthusiasts for a lifetime of adventures; it's fostered a thriving Nordic community in the area; and it's helped build up the middle-school and high-school ski programs by outfitting hundreds of kids with rental gear each year.

But the store's biggest success comes from Ken's overall approach to life and to the people around him. Ken sees the best in everyone, and treats them with a kindness and warmth we would all do well to emulate. He is the most caring, generous boss most of us have ever known -- the kind of boss who genuinely wants the best for you, always has your back, and treats you like family.

Now, after 37 years in business, Ken is getting ready to retire. He's planning to spend some well-deserved time traveling and enjoying his beloved outdoors.

Needless to say, he will be dearly missed. 

Ken has sold the store to Rebecca Walsh, owner of Just Trails and Hike Like a Woman. Rebecca is renaming it Basecamp and will close for remodeling during the month of April. Stay tuned for info on the grand opening in early May.