So what is a Baptist Democratic Arkansan golfer who does not ski doing in a state like this?

On Saturday, the Clintons were supposed to be in Palo Alto, Calif., at a parents' weekend at Stanford University with their daughter, Chelsea. But at the last minute, they surprised many of their staff members and Stanford officials by diverting their armada of aides and security agents and reporters here for a three-day weekend.Rock-ribbed Republican, Mormon, and thoroughly ungolfable at this time of year, Utah has never been a yearned-for destination for President Clinton.

After making a perfunctory campaign stop here in 1992, he had not returned. In the campaign of 1996, he delighted environmentalists elsewhere but angered many state residents by setting aside a Delaware-size hunk of land here as a national monument. He made the announcement in Arizona, a state he thought he could win.

"It's ironic the president would seek respite in a state where he is widely unpopular," The Deseret News coolly noted in a front-page story on Friday.

Aides to Hillary Rodham Clinton said that the family's plans changed at the request of Chelsea, who turned 18 on Friday and wanted to go skiing. She and Hillary Clinton arrived early and hit the slopes before the president flew here on Thursday.

Before he arrived, Clinton said that he had no intention of skiing. "My girls can ski," he said.

The change of plans has insulated the Clintons from prying eyes and questions about executive privilege or Monica Lewinsky, the former White House intern. It also means that other Stanford freshmen are not getting stopped on campus this weekend and asked if they have encountered the Clintons.

"They're just hanging out as a family," said Mike McCurry, the White House press secretary, who stayed in Washington. "They wanted to spend some quiet family time, and it dawned on them that they weren't going to be able to do that at Stanford with parents and press hanging around."

The Clintons are staying at a private estate at Bald Eagle Club, near Deer Valley, courtesy of the kind of mogul that Clinton prefers - Jeffrey Katzenberg, the Hollywood producer. Some administration officials said that the Clintons might have picked Utah because they had access to Katzenberg's house.

Clinton's aides are fiercely guarding the family's privacy. Joe Lockhart, the wry and stocky deputy White House press secretary assigned the unhappy task of dealing with questions relating to Lewinsky, is along on this trip. He has proved resistant to answering questions about the Clintons' doings while on vacation, offering himself as a target for reporters' aggravation.

"I'm a dolt," said Lockhart - who is not one - by way of explanation. "I wouldn't know how to help you even if I wanted to."

This is not the first time Clinton has enjoyed the hospitality of Katzenberg, a major-league Democratic donor who was known as Squirt when he campaigned and worked for Mayor John Lindsay of New York.

Clinton, who got to know Katzenberg in the 1992 campaign, stayed at his beachfront estate in Malibu in November while on a fund-raising trip to California.

Clinton has reciprocated, most recently by inviting Katzenberg to the official dinner at the White House for Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain. At a private reception before that dinner, Time magazine photographed Katzenberg, a smile on his face, leaning his left cheek against Vice President Al Gore's right shoulder blade, his right hand on Gore's right biceps.

"I sent him a note telling him, gee, I was such a close friend of his, he never hugged me like that," said Richard Aurelio, a friend and admirer of Katzenberg from the Lindsay days who is now a senior adviser to Gerald Levin, the chairman and chief executive of Time Warner. "He sent a note back to me saying, `It's a good thing we didn't or people would talk.' "

After the picture received wide commentary, Time ran a rather complex explanation of the scene in this week's issue. It revealed that Katzenberg had teased the flamboyant musician Elton John, who performed that night, and then had taken refuge behind the vice president from the singer's mirthful ire.

No word yet on whether that explanation will help Gore in Utah in the year 2000.