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 the ski on the snow, where there’s no disguising its tip-to-tail connection. A 175cm seems like plenty of ski even at the upper reaches of the recreational speed range, which its ultra-supportive edge invites one to inhabit. You can set it to reel off medium-radius turns with the unalterable precision of a metronome. “Solid and rhythmic,” enthused Jan’s Jack Walzer after taking the RC One 86 GT for a spin.
Mark Rafferty of Peter Glenn filed this report after skiing the 86 GT in spring conditions at Squaw Valley. “A fun, strong entry in Fischer’s carve-oriented family of skis. I could feel the strength of the ski’s construction as I angled it for fast, high-g turns. It held great in icy conditions early in the morning and sliced through slushy snow after conditions softened. Fast or slow, the ski kept me in control in a most invigorating fashion.”
One unabashedly contrarian trait of the RC One 86 GT is its weight. Its shaped Titanal laminates are .8mm thick, twice the norm in off-trail skis that use metal. This mass is a blessing on boilerplate, or wherever the RC One 86 GT has some room to maneuver.
Another tip-off that Fischer envisions the RC One 86 GT in frontside environs is that it’s the head of a mostly Frontside (75mm-84mm underfoot) product family. Furthermore, its construction is all about maintaining snow connection, a classic Frontside obsession. The tip and tail are outfitted with Bafatex®, a synthetic compound meant to muffle shock and keep every cm of the 86 GT’s cambered baseline plastered on the snow. Not to mention all that Titanal to further cow hard snow into silence.
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 possess; they require physical conditioning and mental discipline absent in closer to 99% of the general population.
The Fischer RC One 82 GT is built to bridge this gap. If you want to feel like the demi-god of carving, your search is over. There’s no need to get in an exaggerated posture or press into the tips for all you’re worth; the RC One 82 GT is easily directed from a comfortable, centered stance. They behave like World Cup training wheels: you can mimic the moves of the masters without having to have their level of athleticism and skill.
Its edge grip is to die for. On a steep pitch where other Frontside specialists would flinch, the RC One 82 GT 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 turn; its shock-sucking mass and materials keep it quiet when you let it run.
There’s a mini-trend emerging of loose Frontside skis that are meant to be more amenable to off-trail action; the RC One 82 GT can hold its own in some off-piste conditions, but it remains an unequivocally Frontside ski. While it aims to please a highly skilled skier, it’s not hard to ski. In fact, its stability throughout its inexhaustible speed range makes it a great tool for getting an advanced skier over the expert hump.
For the past several seasons, Fischer has 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 new 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 line, none possess enough Titanal to suppress the loose extremities that appealed to FR fans. Because the metal is mostly underfoot, the tip and tail feel lighter, easier to pivot sideways and generally more genial than a ski with tip-to-tail Ti laminates.
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 series has been great at for years with an easy-going feel.”
Experts who are accustomed to driving into the tip of a race-bred ski may not adopt such a sanguine attitude. Bobo’s top technician, Theron Lee, whose low stance has been lifted from the slalom course, found that “The tip didn’t have a whole lotta reaction to it. I couldn’t drive it into the turn, which began from the mid-body. Made more for off-piste skiing, it had plenty of tip rocker, so it floated pretty well in this kind of cruddy, spring snow.”
While T Lee is doubtless correct that the Ranger 96 has a forebody built for off-trail travel, there’s equally no faulting its edge grip and stability from the mid-body to the tail, that even a skier as talented and strong as Jim Schaffner appreciates. “A big improvement over the Ranger 102,” opines the Start Haus owner. “More predictable and higher stability. Still easy to drift and slarve, but with a much more consistent behavior on hard snow.”
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 its new Ranger series that adds a dab of Titanal to every model, preserving the on-snow properties of its flagship Ranger was likely to be a high priority.
Devotees of the retired Ranger FR 102 can relax. If you loved the FR for its surfy attitude, you’ll be at least as enamored of the 2023 Ranger 102. This is still a decidedly soft snow ski, as several testers lamented given that there was precious little natural snow last season. “In fresh snow, you’ll love this ski,” reassured Mark Rafferty from Peter Glenn. “Plenty wide and playful for first tracks. If no new fresh for a few weeks, the Ranger 102 will rip fast turns on the groomers. Strong for blasting through crud. A true marvel,” he raved.
Not everyone was smitten by the Ranger 102’s soft extremities, particularly when the powder it definitely prefers is in short supply. The race-bred Jim Schaffner over-powered the Ranger 102’s forebody, undermining its edging accuracy on hard snow. “The snow was perfect for testing this type of ski,” the Start Haus owner noted, “however I found that it was too loose for my style of skiing . I can see the benefit for a skier that only seeks out the softer untracked snow and who enjoys the art of drifting and skidding.”
As Schaffner’s remarks suggest, whether the Ranger 102 is your cup of tea depends on style, not ability, although the Ranger 102’s soft flex is especially well suited to those making their first forays into sidecountry. The .5mm-thick Titanal plate in its midsection sits astride a substantial beech and poplar core, so security underfoot shouldn’t be an issue for skiers who aren’t as big and aggressive as erstwhile race coach Schaffner. All things considered, the 2023 Ranger 102 amplified its forebear’s best assets without changing its fundamental character.
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. For 2023, Fischer homogenized the Ranger line by doling out a measure of metal in every model. By dint of its extra width, the Ranger 108 earns a mite more in its midsection, making it the smoothest Ranger in the new family.
The Ranger series has always been aimed squarely at off-trail skiing, where surface area dictates the degree of flotation which in turn has a direct bearing on how easy a ski is to swivel. News bulletin: skiing deep snow isn’t like skiing hardpack. Not just in the obvious way that snow you sink into and snow you can barely dent require different tactics, but in the subtle ways that deep snow affects stance and turn finish, which can’t be carved and therefore has to be swiveled to come across the fall line.
The point of the previous paragraph is that the wider the off-trail ski, the closer it inherently comes to optimizing its design, at least for the purposes of skiing powder, which is the only reason to own a Big Mountain model in the first place. If test conditions last winter had only cooperated, scores for the Ranger 108 would have shot up, elevating both its Power and Finesse rankings. Of all the new Rangers, the 108 was most compromised by inappropriate test conditions, yet its superior skill set was evident despite this considerable handicap.
Blessed with more flotation and power than its stablemate, the Ranger 102, the Ranger 108 delivers the sort of elite performance experts expect. When allowed to run across a field of syrupy corn snow, it’s a gas to lay over like its waist was 20mm thinner. Of course, connection at the top of the turn is inhibited by the usual steep front rocker and pulled-back contact point found in virtually every Big Mountain ski, but most of the Ranger 108 is in the snow and unperturbed by the jolts delivered by irregular terrain.