The over-supply of two-lane paved, gravel, and dirt roads in these parts -- many passing through Rockwellesque landscapes of cows, barns, hay, covered bridges and the like -- means there's abundantly good cycling to be found in central Vermont. The Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce (www.central-vt.com) publishes a good, free handbook to some scenic bike rides in the region called Central Vermont Back Road Bike Tours. Pick it up at any state tourist info kiosk, or locally.
The Green Mountains roll down to Middlebury's eastern edge, making for easy access to the mountains. Stop by the U.S. Forest Service's Middlebury Ranger District office, south of town on Route 7 (tel. 802/388-4362), for guidance and information on area trails and destinations. Ask for the brochure listing day hikes in the region.
One recommended walk for people of all abilities -- and especially those of poetic sensibilities -- is the Robert Frost Interpretive Trail, dedicated to the memory of New England's poet laureate. Frost lived in a cabin on a farm across the road for 23 summers. (The cabin is now a National Historic Landmark.) On Route 125 approximately 6 miles east of Middlebury, this relaxing loop trail is just a mile long, with excerpts of Frost's poems placed on signs along the trail. Also posted is information about the trail's natural history. Managed by the Green Mountain National Forest, the trail offers pleasant access to the lovely intermountain lowlands.
Downhill skiers looking for a low-key, low-pressure mountain invariably head to Middlebury College Snow Bowl (tel. 802/388-4356), near Middlebury Gap on Route 125 east of town. Founded in 1939, this ski area has a vertical drop of just over 1,000 feet served by three chairlifts. The college ski team uses the area for practice, but it's also open to the public for about half what you'd pay at Killington. Adult day lift tickets are $25 Monday to Friday, $39 on Saturday and Sunday, with discounts for youths, students, and senior citizens -- and if you're over 70, it's free!
Cross-country skiing is also enjoyed nearby at the Rikert Ski Touring Center (tel. 802/443-2744), at Middlebury College's Bread Loaf Campus about 12 miles away on Route 125. The center offers about 24 miles of machine-groomed trails through a lovely winter landscape. Adult day passes are $12, while students and children pay $6. Half-day passes are also available ($8 and $4, respectively).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.