Finding the right balance and combination of characteristics in a ski can be difficult. Sure, you can buy a ski specific to certain conditions and styles of skiing, but some days you just want it all—a ski that can hold an edge, but isn’t purely directional. A ski that is playful and fun to go off little bumps and side-hits with, but isn’t too soft. One that can ski in powder but isn’t just a powder ski. I could go on and on. When the Fischer Ranger 102 FR caught my eye, which admittedly is pretty easy to do with a hot pink topsheet, it seemed to be the answer to this long-standing conundrum, and I was excited to see if the Ranger stood up to its bold claims of versatility and all-mountain prowess.
The Fischer Ranger 102 FR features Fischer’s Air Carbon Ti 0.5 construction, which means that the ski has a beech poplar wood core surrounded by a two-layer Titanal shell. The 0.5 refers to the width of the Titanal in millimeters, with 0.5 mm being the thinnest layer of Titanal that Fischer offers in their skis. These thin layers of Titanal provide much-needed stability but manage to keep the ski relatively lightweight. Fischer kept the shovel of the Ranger slim but added a carbon inlay to reduce the swingweight, dampen vibrations, and make the ski easily maneuverable. To top it all off, the Ranger’s Freeski Rocker and twin tips add to the agile and playful feel of this freeride ski.
When you get up close and personal with the Ranger, you’ll notice that the top of the ski is rounded in the center. This is due to Fischer’s Aeroshape design, which eliminates material at the sides of the ski, making the ski lighter and more efficient. The idea behind the Aeroshape design is that the mass of the ski is concentrated in the center, which offers better balance when you’re going up the skin track and a smoother ride on the way down. Fischer also claims that the arced shape allows for quicker power transfer from edge to edge, improved torsional stability for edge grip, and less snow resistance.
Another thing to note is that this year Fischer decided not to gender any of their skis, which means the Ranger is made in a wide variety of lengths, ranging from 156 cm to 191 cm in both the pink and blue. There is no difference between the two different colored skis, so you can take your pick between the topsheets.
This ski is pink—like really pink. Pinker than you think. Beyond my surprise at the topsheet, I was impressed at the weight. This ski won’t slow you down when you’re hiking for turns and can even be used on the skin track if you find yourself mostly heading out of the resort gates or going on tours where you don’t mind a slightly heavier setup. Now, we’re not talking dedicated backcountry ski light, but the Ranger will get the job done. Plus, a little extra weight builds character—or at least that’s what I tell myself.
Going into this winter, my previous skis had a few seasons on them, and I was ready to switch things up, but I also wanted to dip my toes into the world of backcountry skiing. I quickly ruled out getting two new setups (although I was tempted), so I needed to find a ski that was well-suited for mellow tours, but could also charge in bounds. The Fischer Ranger 102 FR mounted with the Atomic Shift binding seemed to fit the bill, and I haven’t been disappointed.
So far, I’ve skied 15 resort days on the Ranger and three tours on them. We’ve had a bit of a slow start to winter here in our neck of the woods, so most of my time on these skis has been spent on hardpack, with a few days of soft snow sprinkled between.
The first thing I noticed was just how quick the Ranger is from edge to edge, a product of the Aeroshape design, and how easy it is to initiate turns. While I found the Ranger really likes to show off on long- to medium-radius turns, the ski has no problem making short and tight ones, either. The Ranger holds an edge much better than I expected for a 102 mm wide freeride ski. Safe to say, the Ranger knows how to rip a groomer, and it definitely doesn’t shy away from high speeds. I’d say one of the Ranger’s standout features is its stability, even when you’re mobbing down the mountain.
Though the Ranger is impressive on-piste, it really excels when you venture off of groomed trails, thanks to its responsiveness and maneuverability. The ski lets you easily adjust to the terrain and shorten the length of your turns on a dime, which is super helpful while skiing in the trees or when you unexpectedly hit chop.
When we finally did get a decent storm, I took out the Ranger to see how it would hold up in 11 inches of fresh stuff. I found that the ski has enough float to keep you on top and having fun when you’ve got an untouched line. Is it as surfy or floaty as a true powder ski? Of course not. But, on the flip side, when the resort is tracked out after your second run and your 110 mm wide ski starts to lose its touch, the 102 mm Ranger really starts to shine, as it is easy to handle in chop. I noticed that the slim shovel with the carbon inlay let me quickly and easily whip the Ranger around and navigate through variable snow. Unlike heavier skis, the Ranger doesn’t tire out your legs, so you can keep hunting for untouched powder pockets.
Drawbacks & Shortcomings
On hardpack and in a few inches of the soft snow, this ski won’t punish you if you fall into the backseat. However, I have noticed that if you want to charge through crud at high speeds, the Ranger wants you to stay in the front seat or else the ski can start to get tossed around. Additionally, the Ranger is 102 mm underfoot, so while you can definitely power through a bump run, I wouldn’t say moguls are necessarily where the Ranger excels.
If you’re into extremes, the Fischer Ranger 102 FR might not be for you. For hardcore backcountry skiers, this ski’s weight might slow you down on the skin track. Ex-racers will probably want a ski with a longer surface edge and better edge grip. Park rats may prefer a full twin and a less directional ski. But for those of us who don’t want to be limited to any one part of the mountain or any one style of skiing, the Ranger reigns supreme, and its versatility is what makes it such a fun ski.
The Fischer Ranger 102 FR is playful when you want it to be, yet stable and aggressive when you need it to be. This ski can pretty much go anywhere on the hill and hold its own, so don’t be afraid to venture into the trees, ski the soft stuff, or cruise groomers. For intermediate to advanced skiers looking for an all-mountain wide ski to join their quiver, the Fischer Ranger 102 FR is a great option. If you want to see for yourself how the Ranger holds up on the slopes, take it out for a rip with our Alpine Ski Test Program.