If one were to distill Fischer to its essence, the resulting elixir would be made of equal parts precision and speed.   Rigorous quality control has been the defining feature of its corporate culture going back to the days of Vacuum Technic that ensured even distribution of glue in an era of loosey-goosey QC.   The infatuation with speed comes with the territory, namely Austria, where winning World Cups is considered a national necessity on a par with strudel and snow. 

Despite the recent spectacular results of American racers on the World Cup, American interest in alpine racing remains a pale shadow of Austria’s national obsession with the sport.  As skiers, we gravitate towards models that are more forgiving than precise.  Except where Fischer is concerned.  Over the course of the past decade, the Fischer models our panelists have preferred ran contrary to the Zeitgeist of the smeared turn; they were unapologetically accurate and geared to run smoothly on the Autobahn.   In the language of Realskiers, Fischer has had its greatest success making Power models that reward speed and technical skill. 

Fischer’s fortunes in the American market found a fresh foothold when the brand introduced its first boot a couple of decades ago. Fischer capitalized on its opportunity when it created a moldable shell material it could vacuum-fit around the skier’s forefoot. Overnight, Fischer went from being a bit player in the boot world to a market force.  As other brands with more market penetration entered the heat-molding fray, Fischer gradually lost ground to more convenient methods.

On the ski front, Fischer’s credibility with the racing community has never been in question, but supporting racing in the U.S. entails as much expense as revenue, so building up the brand’s image with the recreational market has been job one.  In the arcane arena of slo-mo, where skiers race uphill instead of down, Fischer’s mastery of lightweight design, developed in the cross-country sector, makes it a market leader. But this is likely to remain a fringe activity in America, so cracking the mainstream market is still the paramount objective.

There are basically two sides of the recreational coin, on-trail, where carving is the desired skill, and off-trail, where the ski needs to be looser.  Fischer has always had game in the carving arena, going back to the era of the first shaped skis when it made one model with a tail wider than the tip.  More recently, its Progressor series of carvers achieved both acclaim and a measure of popularity, as did the Curv collection that followed.

The race-derived Curv remains in the line as it has strong following in central Europe, where dual-track carving remains important, but in the U.S. the emphasis has shifted to the RC One 86 GT and RC One 82 GT.  If you know how to carve a ski, you will fall in love somewhere in the middle of the first turn.  The RC Ones do not kowtow to the cult of all things lightweight, but instead pours on the Titanal for a grip as fierce as King Kong’s handshake.

It’s on the ungroomed, backside side of the mountain where Fischer has struggled to establish the identity of its multi-model Ranger series.  The first series were basically wider race skis, a clear misfire, so the next series was ultra-light, which didn’t fare much better. Up until last year, Rangers came in two iterations, one with Titanal and one without, and both were better than anything that came before.

A brand is only as good as the people it can attract, and five years ago Fischer added one of the most admired men in the equipment world to its roster, Mike Hattrup. (BTW, 2019 marked the 20th anniversary of Greg Stump’s magnum opus, The Blizzard of Aahhhs, in which Hattrup teamed up with Scot Schmidt and Glen Plake to create celluloid magic.) Hattrup is well known for his work in the backcountry arena, so he was especially qualified to guide the creation of the new generation of Rangers that debuted last year. 

In the current market conditions, the backcountry market is on fire, and Fischer is well positioned to capitalize.  Its hybrid Ranger boots are, frankly, the best Alpine boots Fischer has ever made, and more products that will work both in-resort and in the backcountry are most likely in a short pipeline. 

On a more somber note, the Fischer factory in Ukraine, the largest in the world, burned down in the fall of 2020.  It is now completely rebuilt and again capable of churning out wood-core skis by the truckload. Of course, Ukraine is top-of-mind now for other reasons. Currently, the re-built factory isn’t in imminent danger, but until last winter neither was it making skis, as its workforce was busy beating back the Russian invasion.

As predicted in this space, Fischer did indeed introduce a new Ranger series last year. The pendulum-swing between metal and no-metal iterations ended somewhere in the middle: every 2023/24 Ranger (except the lowest rung on the price/performance ladder) has a Titanal configuration underfoot that extends farther into the tip and tail the narrower the Ranger it adorns.  Because the dose of Titanal is carefully calibrated, the tip and tail stay playfully loose and the overall sensation leans to the Finesse side of the Finesse/Power divide.  As is entirely appropriate for an expressly off-trail series, the design of the latest Rangers tends to favor the wider widths, particularly in the broken, ungroomed terrain where they shine. 

Like the sheriff who rode into a rough-and-tumble western town as an out-of-towner, quickly earned the respect of the locals, brought peace to the valley and then rode on, Hattrup, after successfully re-creating the Ranger series, has taken his considerable talent to Black Diamond. A great fit for a great person, who richly deserved his recent induction into the  U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame.

One thing Hattrup didn’t change about the Ranger series: men’s and women’s models remain the same throughout the line.

The 2024 Season

With the fulfillment of the Ranger mission, Fischer’s Alpine ski collection has all its bases covered, so no new models infiltrated the line this year.  Instead of tinkering with its established ski line, Fischer’s focus in 2024 has been on integrating the BOA fit system into its boot collection, a major undertaking that could determine the fate of its boot division for the next several seasons.

Ranger 102

The qualities that made the 102 FR the star product of the old Rangers were its smeary, playful baseline, its metal-free construction – making it lighter and torsionally softer – and the fact that it had the most distinctive snow feel compared to its competition in the Big Mountain genre. As Fischer made the transition to the new Ranger series that adds a dab of Titanal to every model, preserving the on-snow properties of its …READ MORE

Ranger 102

When Fischer made the decision to be gender neutral in its 2023 Ranger ski line – meaning men’s and women’s models would use the identical recipe and even the same names – it did so by blending the constructions (and consequent behaviors) of its existing Ti and FR designs. The 2024 Ranger 102 is a product of this design union, retaining the loose and smeary extremities of the old 102 FR, with a patch of …READ MORE

Ranger 108

Now that the Fischer Ranger series share a common construction, they also share a similar behavioral profile. Nothing affects a modern ski quite as much as the addition or subtraction of Titanal, so when Rangers were made both with and without Ti laminates, their performance profile would change radically from one model to the next.  In 2023, Fischer homogenized the Ranger line by doling out a measure of metal in every model. By dint of …READ MORE

Ranger 90

Last year, after several seasons of toil behind the R&D curtain, Fischer rolled out a completely overhauled Ranger line of off-trail models.  The new clan consisted of  hybrids that blended the two branches of the previous Ranger clan, the surfy FR series and the more connected Ti models.  All the new Rangers received a dose of .5mm-thick Titanal underfoot married to a fairly loose tip and tail.  As befits the family name, they all possess …READ MORE

Ranger 90

[Fischer’s Ranger women’s models are identical to their unisex counterparts.  It’s in this spirit that we reprise our unisex review of the Ranger 90, whose every word is as applicable to its “women’s” version.] Fischer has spent the last few seasons behind the R&D curtain re-imagining its entire Ranger collection of off-trail models.  The result is a family of hybrids that blend the two branches of the previous Ranger clan, the surfy FR series and …READ MORE

Ranger 96

Prior to last season, Fischer had subdivided its Ranger family of off-trail models into two distinct clans, indicated by their suffixes: Ti, for those with metal in the mix, and FR, for those without. Like the Ti’s of yesteryear, there’s metal in the latest hybrid Rangers, just not as much as before.  The metal is confined to the area underfoot, and while there are some changes in how the metal part is configured across the …READ MORE

Ranger 96

Given that its double-rockered baseline is biased towards soft snow that gives the tip and tail something to push against, the Ranger 96 is more at home off-trail than on. Skiers who possess a more upright, centered stance may share the reaction of Peter Glenn’s Mark Rafferty, who pondered the question, “How can a ski be both playful and hard charging? Magic, I guess. But the Ranger 96 has all the carve that the Ranger …READ MORE

RC One 82 GT

Frontside skis and World Cup, FIS-blessed race skis both allege they’re on their best behavior on hard snow. That much is true, but don’t think for a minute that they handle prepared slopes the same way. The fact is, the gulf between race skis and recreational skis made for the same (or at least, similar) surface has never been deeper or wider. Race skis don’t just require skills that 95% of the ski population don’t …READ MORE

RC One 86 GT

The Fischer RC One 86 GT is to all intents and purposes a hard-snow carving specialist with a waist just plump enough to put it in the company of a bunch of all-terrain generalists. In an effort to blend in, the RC One 86 GT has a tiny splay of tip rocker, and a tail rocker so tiny it should be called a rockette. This masquerade lasts only as long as it takes to get …READ MORE