Axamer Lizum – the 1 lift ski paradise

The best and highest ski area in the Innsbruck ski region has just opened its new gondola, operating from the car park to the Hoadl peak station. High capacity and currently the only lift operating – could Axamer Lizum show the way toward a single lift ski area?

The new Hoadlbahn lift is a 10-seater gondola that replaced an ageing 4-seater chair and a relic of the Olympics, the Hoadl 2, a 2-seater chair that is headed for a museum. A car park level escalator takes guests to the lift and 6 minutes later the peak of the Hoadl at 2340m. From there the ski area fans out, in one direction to the women’s Olympic downhill course, and in the other to the men’s routes. Currently those packing the car park and ski buses are managed by this one new, shining lift, which begs the question – are the other lifts in Axamer Lizum actually needed?

Manageable crowds

It might be early season, but the Innsbruck locals are flocking to Axamer Lizum on the southern flank of the city. Tourists are some weeks away, but the resort is very much at capacity at present and with 1 lift in operation, the balance between slope space, lift queues and visitor numbers seems to have found a sweet spot. It feels like the ski lift system of the area is operating at normal capacity. The slopes don’t feel crowded, partly because the Hoadlbahn drops users at the peak where the ski area effectively splits into 2, these areas reconnecting in the valley. 

1 lift ski area?

All this capacity managed by 1 lift – will that persist? Sadly, for the operators, the possibility to run the Axamer Lizum ski area on 1 lift isn’t realistic long-term. The Pleissen lift on the western flank of ski area is old but is the only way to haul skiers and boarders to the off-piste riches beneath the Axamer Kögele. The Karleiten chair serves the snow park and the iconic Olympiabahn funicular is super quick to the peak, although both lifts are covered by the new Hoadlbahn.

Technology came too late

Newly developed ski areas could well establish an operation around a single lift artery. That however was never the case in the past with lower capacity lift systems. In some respects, though, it would be beneficial for a higher capacity lift to replace multiple, lower capacity lifts, otherwise the volume of skiers and boarders on the slopes would become unmanageable. There are new regulations in Tirol now which make it all but impossible to build new lifts in virgin terrain – new lifts must be replacing existing infrastructure. The 1 ski lift area is unlikely to ever materialise, but it is more likely that over time there will be fewer lifts than we see today.

Axamer Lizum, Austria piste map.
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