The tiny town of Bridgewater (pop. 936), stretching along the banks of the Ottauquechee, seems well on the way to the middle of nowhere. But that’s what lures many visitors to this region—the fact that so much of it seems to have contentedly hung back with Rip van Winkle. That said, Bridgewater is a gateway to one of the state’s most important somewheres: the ski resorts of central Vermont. The large woolen mill here has been converted into the Bridgewater Mill Mall, its water-powered turbines and textile machines replaced by small shops and restaurants such as a thrift store, a pizzeria, and showrooms and workshops for furniture and jewelry makers.

Through the Bridgewater area, US-4 is generously wide-shouldered and level, making it a popular cycling route, especially during the fall color season, when the dense hardwood forests that climb the slopes above the roadway are blazing with autumn hues. When the leaves have fallen and been replaced by snow, this scenic stretch changes character completely, becoming one of the East Coast’s most prominent ski resorts, Killington (800/621-6867). The permanent population of Killington is maybe 881 people, but on winter day, as many as 13,000 skiers flock to its six different mountains and many miles of trails. The skiers also support a plethora of real estate agencies, restaurants, and bars, especially off US-4 on the main road to the slopes, Killington Road.

Killington is not as popular in the summer, when the parking lots of the time-share condo complexes are empty and the hills are scarred by clear-cut ski trails, but the lack of crowds also means lower prices for accommodations, from roadside motels to upscale resorts.