Overview

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. The current Rangers come in two iterations, one with Titanal and one without, and both are better than anything that came before.

A brand is only as good as the people it can attract, and three 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’s especially qualified to guide the creation of a new generation of Rangers I expect we’ll see in the not-too-distant future.

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 churning out wood core skis by the truckload.

There’s every indication that Fischer’s fortunes in the American Alpine ski market are ascending. Given my professional preoccupations, I naturally look at a brand through the prism of its products, like a fortuneteller inspecting tea leaves. I like what I read in Fischer’s leaves.

The 2022 Season

While Fischer didn’t introduce any new models of note this year, the R&D machine never sits idle for long. Given the importance of the Ranger series in the American market and the expertise Hattrup brings to the table, I would expect Fischer’s off-trail series to garner the most development attention in the near future. If Hattrup can help raise the performance bar of the Rangers to equal the excellence of the RC One series, Fischer will be well on its way to a market resurgence.

Even though I have no new product news to report, our test experience last spring shed some light on Fischer’s attitude towards women’s skis, which is that they’re not needed.  I was fortunate to have some very good (and very strong) women test for Realskiers, and I encouraged them to ski both men’s and women’s models.

 Our ladies loved the RC One 82 GT WS, one of Fischer’s gender-blind carvers, precisely because it wasn’t watered-down.  I didn’t detect a trace of gender influence in any of their scores or comments, about any ski they tried.  The made-for-women ski market is definitely here to stay, but whether all women benefit from a gender-specific model is also definitely debatable.

RC One 82 GT

The edge grip of RC One 82 GT is to die for. On a steep pitch where other Frontside specialists would flinch, it held with far less exertion. This is precisely the mission of the Frontside ski: to magnify the skier’s energy rather than drain it. The extra weight this ski hauls around helps a ton when it comes to sticking to a pencil-thin line on hardpack. Its sidecut and construction deliver an ultra-secure, short-radius …READ MORE

RC One 82 GT WS

Fischer maintains that your skis don’t know your gender, and our ladies’ limited experience with the RC One 82 GT WS (for Women’s Series) tends to support this contention. Both Clare Martin from Peter Glenn and Lara Hughes Allen from the Mt. Rose Ski School raved about it, despite having very different ski bios. For Clare, who works retail in the southeast, the RC One 82 GT was a huge step up from her norm, …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

Ranger 99 Ti

The Ranger 99 Ti seems to be a ski without bias. It could care less about snow conditions, has no qualms about long turns at high speeds or short arcs at a snail’s pace and can switch from a drift to a carve in mid-turn. Its monotonously good scores were above our Recommended cut line for every attribute we measure. Another bias that the Ranger 99 Ti eschews is any trace of gender bias. The …READ MORE

Ranger 102 FR

Fischer’s Ranger series of off-trail skis is split into two distinct camps. Those with a “Ti” suffix include two sheets of Titanal that deliver the enhanced edge grip and shock damping that are the hallmarks of the aluminum alloy. Those with “FR” in their name use fiberglass as the main structural component, with a dash of carbon in the tip to lower swingweight and buffer the forebody. The Ranger 102 FR’s frisky attitude is perfect …READ MORE

Ranger 102 FR WS

Fischer doesn’t differentiate its Ranger series of off-trail skis according to gender, but according to attitude. Those Rangers with Ti in their name and Titanal laminates in their guts are all business, while the FR fold are all fun and games.  No feature says, “let’s party!” as loud as twintip construction, and no other Big Mountain ski comes dressed to rock the joint like the shocking pink Ranger 102 FR WS. Whether one prefers the …READ MORE

Ranger 107 Ti

In 19/20 Fischer re-designed the flagship of its Ranger Ti series, returning to a lay-up with twin Titanal laminates for stability and liberal use of carbon to make it responsive. Carbon inlays in the tip and tail help make the extremities thin and light, so the latest Ranger 107 Ti is easier to foot steer when necessary. “It’s user-friendly but still can be skied aggressively,” notes one admiring tester. “You can take your foot off …READ MORE