Snow and words have been good to the resort this season.

When it's needed snow most, it's come. And, after years of talking, people are finally listening to what ParkWest has to offer.Which, said Doug Harmon, ski area manger, "Has made for a pretty good season for us."

Which means, said Harmon, that traffic has been steady, "but there has been a substantial increase in revenue per skier visit. What this tells us is that more out-of-state skiers are giving us a try.

"(Revenue per skier) is the only way we have of measuring the out-of-state skiers."

Harmon said that he believes the resort, long recognized as an area for locals, is getting the word out that there is an alternative for incoming visitors. That when other areas are crowded, there's another resort just down the road; that when skiers want to try some different terrain, there's a place to go that's close by.

"In many cases we're getting the overflow. And, in many cases people are telling their friends to come over. We're getting more of this than we imagined.

"And I think what people are finding is that we are a little more laid-back here. Also, we're a little less expensive. All this has been a positive for us this year."

So much so that it has allowed the area to take the first steps in major development and redevelopment.

Harmon said they are in the process of applying for the required permits.

"I don't know if it will happen this year, but I'd say that within the next two years you'll see some major changes . . . relocation of the base area, new lifts and improvements that will bring us up to a state-of-the-art ski area," he said.

At the top of the list is the expansion of ParkWest's snowmaking capabilities. It currently has a snowmaking system in place, but Harmon said plans call for it to be upgraded "and quadrupled in size."

Some changes have already been initiated. The most obvious is in the food services. Lodge areas are brighter, cleaner and offer a wider selection of dining opportunities.

Ongoing is the development of its children's ski program. It is under the direction of Melleke Meuzelaar, who is also coordinator for the children's ski programs for the Professional Ski Instructors Association.

Her program is centered on making the skiing experience a learning, as well as a fun experience for the child.

"It is not," said Harmon, "simply a baby sitting operation. Melleke has put together a program that is creative. She makes learning to ski interesting, both outside on the snow and inside, during learning and rest periods . . . and the increases we're experiencing tell us that it's working."

Early indications are that Utah's 1990-91 season is going well. In fact, if it continues at its current level, this could be Utah's best season ever. The previous best was the 1988-89 year when resorts recorded over 2.5 million skier days.

Part of the reason for this success is that while resorts around the country were waiting for snow, Utah already had some. And, while other states were waiting for a base, Utah's had already been recovered with new snow several times.

In mid-February, for example, Mammoth Mountain in California, the country's largest area, had but three lifts open and a base of only 19 inches. At the same time, Sun Valley was only able to claim a base of 20 inches and Vail, in Colorado, a base of 35 inches.

The latest flurry of storms helped everyone. Sun Valley now has a mid-mountain base of 35 inches, Vail 70 and Mammoth 71.

Still highest on the snow-depth charts, however, are Utah resorts. The latest report, for example, shows Alta with 121 inches, Snowbird with 111, Brighton with 104, Park City and ParkWest with 83, and Solitude with 107.

Other areas have not done as well. One report said that Colorado resorts should brace for a 15-percent loss of business because of this year's low snowfall.

Last year Colorado got 10 million skier visits of the 50 million nationwide. Utah recorded about 2.4 million.

But nowhere are ski resorts in more trouble than in California, which is in its fifth year of drought. One analyst predicted California's resorts could lose as much as 75 percent of their revenues.

Resorts, too, are feeling the effects of the soft economy. People may ski, but tend to go light in other areas. For example, they will pack lunches, skip ski schools and wait on the new ski equipment.