The tiny town of Bridgewater (pop. 895), 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 Old Mill Marketplace, its water-powered turbines and textile machines replaced by small shops selling a typically Vermont mix of antiques, ski apparel, New Age books, and gift-packaged Vermont foods to visitors heading for the mountains.

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 When the leaves have fallen and been replaced by snow, this scenic stretch changes character completely, becoming one of the East Coast’s most prominent ski resorts, Killington (snow info 802/422-3261, lift tickets around $80 and up). The permanent population of Killington is maybe 50 people, but on winter weekends as many as 10,000 skiers flock to its seven 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.

Compared to the rest of Vermont, Killington is not an especially attractive place to be in 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. Options from roadside motels to upscale resorts like the Inn of the Six Mountains offer their lowest rates when the temperatures are highest.