Update: Boarder comes forward, takes blame for collision on Aspen Mountain

Aspen Mountain will make its debut for the 2016-17 ski season Sunday when the Little Nell chairlift and trail open. It's a humble start but a winter storm is forecast for Aspen.
Anna Stonehouse / The Aspen Times |

Editor’s note: This story and headline have been updated after The Aspen Times received a phone call Tuesday morning from a local man who said he was the snowboarder involved in the incident.

A second snowboarder stepped forward Tuesday morning to take blame for a collision last week on Aspen Mountain, saying he, not his friend, was the one who crashed into a tourist.

Connor Marx, 26, of Aspen called The Aspen Times on Tuesday and confessed to being the person who hit a 56-year-old skier from Illinois on Thursday afternoon.

“I want to set it straight and make sure people know (Michael McKiernan) didn’t do that,” Marx said. “I want to come forward so he doesn’t take the fall.”

Aspen Police Department officials said Tuesday afternoon they have talked with Marx about the incident, but had not further updates.
McKiernan denied hitting the skier, saying he went around the man who was already on the ground when he reached him, according to police reports. According to police, McKiernan got into altercations with two Aspen Skiing Co. employees who confronted him at base area and McKiernan was charged with disorderly conduct.

“McKiernan was adamant that he did not hit the male … but rather the male was already on the ground when McKiernan passed him,” according to the police report.

McKiernan, 24, was identified by at least three witnesses on the ski hill and at the base of the gondola as the person who hit the skier, according to police reports.

A 70-year-old Aspen Skiing Co. instructor, who told police he witnessed the incident from the base, confronted McKiernan after the incident, and the two men allegedly engaged in a shoving match near the base of the Silver Queen Gondola. McKiernan also allegedly threw punches at another Skico employee who attempted to pull his ski pass, according to police reports.

Marx said he was snowboarding Thursday afternoon with McKiernan, a friend, and was ahead of him coming down Little Nell. He said he went over a roller, was looking at his feet and found himself on top of Joe Powers, the skier from Naperville, Illinois.

Marx said he slid down the hill and was dazed after hitting Powers, then looked up the run and saw Powers getting up before going to check himself out. He said he didn’t know about the confrontation involving McKiernan until later.

“My friend has had my back to this point and obviously I don’t want him to deal with this heat,” Marx said.

Marx said he didn’t stop and check on Powers after the collision because he looked to be unhurt. He said he regrets that decision now and asked for Powers’ phone number so he could call him and apologize.

“I would like to take responsibility for this,” he said. “Make it clear that (McKiernan) was wrongfully accused.”
Powers, 56, said Monday that he was about 200 yards up the Little Nell run when he was blindsided by a snowboarder.

“I never saw him,” said Powers. “His board took my legs out, and I was on my back. By the time I figured out what happened, he was taking his board off and running through the crowd.”

The instructor said he confronted McKiernan “and asked for his ski pass,” according to the reports. McKiernan first began yelling and cursing at him, then McKiernan’s girlfriend stepped up and began cursing at him, as well.

“He said the girlfriend pushed him so he pushed her back,” according to the reports. “(The instructor) said the boarder guy then pushed him several times until he fell to the ground.”

Another witness said the girlfriend “was attempting to stab everyone with her ski poles,” the reports state.

A different Skico employee also confronted McKiernan in an attempt to pull his pass and told police McKiernan “began throwing punches, which mainly all missed but one did make contact with Jensen’s face,” according to the police reports.

The couple attempted to leave the scene in the Downtowner taxi, but the driver refused to transport them. Police caught up with McKiernan in the 500 block of East Cooper Avenue, where he told them the skier fell in front of him and he went around him.

McKiernan’s girlfriend told police that the instructor pushed her first so she pushed him back. Attempts to reach McKiernan on Monday were not successful.

Powers, the man who was hit, said he struck his head and back “pretty hard” on the icy run and could not ski the next day, which was the last day of his vacation.

“My back hurt a lot,” Powers said. “But I was not injured enough to go to the doctor. The only thing that bummed me out was I couldn’t ski the next day.”

In an interesting twist, Powers, who’s been coming to Aspen every year since 1990, said he was having margaritas at a local restaurant later that night when he noticed that McKiernan was the bartender. He said he asked McKiernan if he was the one who hit him, but McKiernan denied it and said Powers was already on the ground.

“I don’t want to see the kid get in trouble or anything,” Powers said. “If he’d stopped and said ‘Sorry,’ it would have been over.”