Day of the storm. The extra traffic from Presidents Day and icy roads lead to very hazardous driving conditions.

Backcountry boarding one hour from coast?

Feb.19-21-During and after the snowstorm that dropped 3 feet of snow in Monterey County.

Written by Wayne Kelly. Photos by Wayne Kelly and Kyle

Snowboarding in Monterey County? Believe it. Less than an hour from the coast, there was enough snow to lay down some sweet snowboard lines through some fluffy powder. You could not help but notice over the weekend here in Monterey, the snow-capped peaks visible from parts of Seaside, up the Salinas Valley, and even parts of North County.  Before we left, I almost decided to paddle out for a surf session at Marina. The surf was so bad, I gave up on the surfing end. My friend Kyle and I loaded up the car and drove up Carmel Valley.

Pro Surfer Wayne Kelly leaves the coast to hit a rock jump up at Chews Ridge the day after the storm.

Wayne Kelly

We are not talking resort quality conditions here, but keep in mind that these humble moments of snowboarding pleasure were enjoyed about an hour away from Monterey! It doesn't happen too often, but it is a viable option to driving 3 or more hours to go snowboarding!

 With snow levels down to 2500 feet, it was amazing to think we were so close to the ocean. Chews Ridge is at about 5200 feet, and the road up there is some of the most treacherous driving terrain you can experience anywhere. Even with the best equipped 4x4, you were not immune to disaster.

Day of the storm.... Rocky-Mountain looking accumulation lead to a slippery nightmare, and disaster for the unsuspecting  drivers.

 One obviously ruffled driver commented "its an insurance nightmare up there", referring to the number of collisions and accidents that were occurring up the icy mountain road. I witnessed one big, brand new truck slide down a sheet of ice on the road, and t-bone right into a rock wall. The owner jumped out, and all he could do was curse. It was obvious hiking up the road, noticing broken car parts laying along the road, that it had claimed more than a few victims. Kyle had even found some insurance papers someone must have dropped accidentally.

Kyle, fresh back from Tahoe over the weekend, had low expectations. After a few jumps you could see that he was really starting to have some fun. Drive 6 hours each way to spend $70 on a lift ticket, or hit some local terrain? Kyle weighs the options.

 Hiking with snowboards and a shovel was a major part of the ordeal, which is pretty standard for backcountry. We found a run that lead into a rock ridge for a nice jump, with a section of fluffy powder after it. With some spunk, we built a "kicker". A kicker is basically the snowboard version of a skateboard ramp.  It was a nice addition to spice up the mini-terrain park we had created.

After a few hours, we had plenty of time to enjoy the fruits of our efforts. This was not for the unconditioned person accustomed to ski-lifts and the groomed runs of Tahoe. This required work!


If we are lucky, maybe the opportunity will come again before summer and we will get some low-elevation snowfall. This might be it for snowboarding Monterey in 2006