President Clinton survived another storm upon his arrival in Utah, but this one had nothing to do with politics and everything to do with weather.
The president awoke Friday to a fresh layer of snow outside Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg's mountain mansion in the exclusive Bald Eagle Club at Deer Valley. Clinton joined first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and daughter Chelsea Thursday night in Park City after a white-knuckle ride through a blizzard in icy Parleys Canyon.The Clintons are in Utah for the weekend to celebrate Chelsea's birthday Friday. The 18-year-old Stanford University freshman asked her parents to meet her in Park City for a ski vacation. A private party might be held at the ritzy Stein Eriksen Lodge. The Clinton women arrived two days before the president.
Clinton apparently intends to handle this week's record snowfall like he would the political and personal storms that have plagued his presidency: Say little, hunker down, ride it out. The president will reportedly spend the weekend in the cabin reading while his wife and daughter hit the slopes.
The president hasn't scheduled any public appearances in Utah, though he'll take Air Force One to California for a speech Saturday and return the same day. The Clintons plan to stay in Park City through Sunday.
Clinton's momentary reclusiveness apparently means no one will be able to ask him about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Nor will anyone here get to quiz him about the controversial Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, still a sore spot for many Utahns.
It's ironic the president would seek respite in a state where he is widely unpopular. But daughters' birthday wishes are difficult for doting fathers to disregard.
"He said this is where Chelsea wants to be for her 18th birthday," said Salt Lake Mayor Deedee Corradini, who greeted the president Thursday evening on the tarmac at the Utah Air National Guard base. "I told him to please tell her `happy birthday.' "
Clinton, sporting a Western hat on his first visit to Utah as president, stepped off the plane with little fanfare. Not that someone didn't try to liven up the subdued event. A fife and drum corps showed up at the base's front gate hoping to play as Clinton deplaned. The National Guard turned the unauthorized group away. But the musicians got their chance to see the president later.
Corradini was the sole member of the welcoming committee that met Clinton after the sky blue and white presidential plane touched down in snow and ice about 6:15 p.m. Base commander Lt. Col. S. Craig Widen gave the president a salute before Clinton turned to Corradini for a brief chat. The mayor, who got to know Clinton at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, has invited him to Utah in the past. She gave the president three Salt Lake Winter Olympics hats.
"I was confident that at some point he would get here. I'm just thrilled that it was now," said Corradini. Clinton made a stop in Salt Lake City as a presidential candidate in 1992.
The president's prolonged stay surely will bring additional attention to the state that just last Sunday took the world stage at the closing ceremonies of the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. The Olympic flag flying over Salt Lake City and snow continuing to pile up in the mountains and valleys has the ski industry beaming.
"We've got major publicity rolling in with this visit," said Amber Older, communications director of the Utah Ski Association. "The timing couldn't be better."
Ski Utah recently completed an ad campaign in California which, coupled with the recently completed Japan Olympics, might have attracted Chelsea to Utah, Older surmised.
The Clintons, meanwhile, intend to keep a low profile. Few people reported seeing Chelsea and her mother, though they apparently have been out skiing since Tuesday. The Katzenberg mansion is adjacent to Deer Valley Resort and has ski runs intertwined among the luxury houses like roads.
Not many people caught a glimpse of the president either when he arrived Thursday evening.
A Kearns family waited in the cold to see Clinton step off Air Force One. "We're not fans, but he is the president. You don't see a president every day," said Gary Shepherd, who works part time at the base.
The motorcade stopped once just outside the airport, and the president slogged through deep snow to shake hands with a crowd of 60 to 70 people, including members of the fife and drum crops, who took the opportunity to play their music.
At Deer Valley, a small gathering outside the security gate of the posh neighborhood of multimillion-dollar dwellings cheered his Chevy Suburban as it rolled past.
The first family will take most of its meals in the cabin and doesn't intend to venture out.
Will the president ski?
The Washington Post reported that the president's one and only ski outing, 14 years ago at Sun Valley, was a memorable misadventure. His instructor was a "20-year-old blond Adonis" who cut a dashing figure on the slopes, Clinton recalled. "I hated the guy."
Clinton had high regard, however, for the orthopedist with the Cajun accent who tended to his injured knee after a long day of repeated falls. "You've still got the legs of a 20-year-old," Clinton mimicked the doctor saying. The instructor likewise was impressed with Clinton's resilience and surprised when he learned his student was the governor of Arkansas. "I thought you were a steelworker," the "Adonis" said.
But the president will not want to push his luck at Park City, where the first family arrived late Thursday night. "I'm going to stay in the cabin and read," he said. "My girls can ski."