Even though not many people may be familiar with the resort of Axamer Lizum in Austria it was chosen as the location for the Alpine Skiing disciplines during the Winter Olympics hosted by Innsbruck back in 1964 and the special year of 1976.
The train called the Olympiabahn is still a reminder of its Olympic past and functions as the main means of transportation up the mountain. It will bring you from the bottom of the resort at 1600 meters above sea level (5,250 ft) to the top of the Hoadl at 2340 meters (7,677 ft) in less than 5 minutes and makes the chairlifts of Hoadl 1 and 2 as well as the Schonbodenbahn kind of redundant.
Because of its relative speed the Olympiabahn offers people the possibility to maximize their time snowboarding and skiing on the slopes or the surrounding forests instead of sitting in a chairlift. What the chairlifts are concerned the only redeeming factor is that on sunny days you can enjoy the fresh mountain air and the possibility to scout for possible free-riding powder lines in the forest and meadows below.
The view from the top of Hoadl in Axamer Lizum. In the foreground the chairlift Hoadl 2 and the rails of the Olympiabahn, in the background the Inn valley and Innsbruck.
From the peak of the Hoadl you can either take the blue #1 slope, still referred to as the 'Damen Abfahrt' (ladies' downhill) or the red #3, the 'Herren Abfahrt' (men's downhill).
When choosing the blue #1 you will find access to a natural gully on the left side of the slope right before reaching the Dohlennest restaurant on the right side of the slope. This gully can be followed all the way down to the point where slope #1a branches off the main slope on the right side. For those interested in measuring their speed there is a section on the #1a slope with radar control.
If you want to try some easy access free-riding then you can go out of bounds to the right side of the #1 slope at the Dohlennest restaurant and traverse to a point where you find a nice line down to the #1a blue slope below. More serious free-riding can be attempted by hiking up the Widdersberg from the Dohlennest. Going out of bounds here should only be attempted by experienced and expert snowboarders and skiers with knowledge about avalanches and the use of avalanche equipment.
When choosing the red #3 slope (men's downhill) down the other side of the Hoadl there are a couple of gullies to be found, first on the right side after passing the top of the Schonbodenbahn and later on both the left and the right side after passing the start of the Hoadl 2 chairlift.
When you continue going right up the narrow path after passing the start of the Hoadl 2 chairlift you will end up on the #2 red slope. From here you can opt for some free-riding, either in the direction of the #1 blue slope, passing underneath the railroad tracks of the Olympiabahn or when staying left of the Olympiabahn into the forest below. If you choose the latter you will cross the #2 red slope again at one point when it is merely a path. Cross this path and continue down into the forest between the Hoadl 1 and Schonbodenbahn chairlifts.
From the Hoadl mountain you can also reach the Karleiten and Pleisen chairlifts if you keep to the left. They do not really bring you anywhere interesting but it is always nice to explore and get familiar with the whole resort. From the top of the Pleisen chairlift there is a black slope #8 that goes all the way down to the village of Axams. You will need the right snow conditions and a freezing level going low enough to actually be able to reach Axams. You may also want to do a session of 'rock-paper-scissors' to select the one who will have the honour of driving the car from the parking at Axamer Lizum down to Axams to pick up the others.
On the opposite side of the Hoadl mountain you will find the Birgitzkopfl chairlift with only a black slope #10 and a ski touring route bringing you back down. Unless you are an expert skier or snowboarder I do not recommend this side. From the top of the Brigitzkopfl (1982 meters / 6,500 ft) there is the red slope #11 that goes all the way down to the village of Götzens. Again, this is only feasible on days with enough snow down in the valley and when you have someone bringing the car back down.
She's a Day Tripper
Axamer Lizum can be reached from Innsbruck within 30 minutes by car. Do not take the A12 Autobahn as indicated by the road signs when leaving Innsbruck but follow the signs in the direction of Völs, Birgits and Götzens (see map below). Enter the village of Axams and go left onto the Olympiastraße after passing the MPreis supermarket on your right. Leave the village again and continue up the mountain on the Hoadlstraße. From here it takes another ten to fifteen minutes to arrive in Axamer Lizum. Make sure you have winter tires as this road can be very slippery.
When you are staying in Innsbruck and dependent of public transportation you can take bus #4162 from the central station (bus stop E). This bus will take you up to Axamer Lizum in 51 minutes.
In Axamer Lizum there are only two hotels and one apartment building so don't expect a vibrant ski station. I remember my Nike Action Sports colleagues almost died of boredom here after the lifts closed. I had arranged to stay in Hotel Lizumer Hof in 2008 after the ISPO trade show in Munich and I ended up driving them down to Innsbruck every night to prevent them from jumping off the balcony in despair. The year after I decided to bring them to Mayrhofen so they could drink themselves into a stupor at the Ice Bär, the epicentre of “apres-ski” retardness.
So if you are looking for peace and quiet then booking accommodation in Axamer Lizum is recommended, if you also like to go out to restaurants and bars then Innsbruck is definitely the place to stay. From Innsbruck one also has the opportunity to check out the adjacent Nordkette ski station just above Innsbruck or Schlick 2000 in the Stubaital. I visit Axamer Lizum only on day trips from Innsbruck outside of the weekends and right after a fresh dump (of snow) so I suggest you do the same. See you there!