It took four years, but things are back to normal. Snow fell and resorts opened - on time.

This is Utah skiing as it should be and, put aside the past few years, the way people have come to expect it. Before the lean years, it was expected that Utah would have good skiing for Thanksgiving.This year there's snow on the trees, packed along the highways, coating the mountains and, best of all, covering the ski runs.

Skiing is, pointed out Randy Montgomery, executive director of Ski Utah, "more like mid-season . . . It's that good."

Storms two weeks ago gave Utah a good coating. And, ski area operators pointed out, the pattern was perfect. The first storms put down heavy snow for a solid, firm base, while later storms left the lighter snow on top for good skiing.

The drought years also played a part. As a safety measure for very little snow, resorts put extra emphasis into grooming their runs in the off-season. That is, removing rocks and trees to make runs smoother.

"It was our alternative to snowmaking," said Onno Wieringa, general manager of Alta. "We made it so we could open with less snow . . . The benefit, when we do get good early snow, is that skiing is really good."

Records from Snowbird show snowfall way ahead of the past three seasons. This month the area has received more than 100 inches of snow. Currently it shows a base of 56 inches.

Last year, during the entire month of November, it received only 74 inches, and in 1989, only 69 inches of snow.

Skiing over the holidays was good. What made it even better was that skiers were spread out this year. The past three years, Alta, Brighton and Snowbird have had to shoulder most of the holiday pressure.

This year most of Utah's 14 areas were open, including Utah's smallest resort - Nordic Valley. The only area resorts not open are Deer Valley, which will open Saturday, ParkWest, which will open Dec. 11, and Sundance, which will open Dec. 12. Beaver Mountain and Elk Meadows will open with sufficient snow.

Ski areas reported good crowds over the holiday, but no overcrowding.

"It was nice to have reasonable crowds for a change," said Wieringa. "The past few years everyone has come to Alta because we've had the snow. This year it was nice to have crowds that fit the mountain."

According to Mark Menlove, communications director for Park City, business was up between 8 and 10 percent over the holiday when compared to figures last year.

Even then, what lines developed over the weekend were short.

Indications are that Utah will continue with the good ski season.

Eastern ski areas got some good, early snow, but recent storms there have dropped rain instead of snow, which has significantly reduced the quality of skiing there. Several visiting skiers reported changing travel plans to bypass the east and head west where skiing was better.

Early bookings for ski-related stays are also up significantly.

"One of the main benefits of the early snow," reported Montgomery, "is that skiers are booking now for Christmas. Many people will sit on the fence until they know Christmas is going to be good and then they make their plans.

"With the snow we've got now, even if we don't get more before Christmas, we'll have good skiing."

Utah is also benefiting from the high cost of European skiing. Current exchange rates are high, which is helping to persuade U.S. skiers to ski America this year.

Consensus is that Utah's ski season is off to one of its best starts ever. The prediction of a heavier-than-normal snowfall should help keep it good.

Best part of all is that now, as Wieringa said, "Is that with all this snow it looks the way it should at Alta.". . . And all the other Utah resorts.