Ski: 2013-2014 Fischer Watea 96, 186cm
Dimensions (mm): 132-96-120
Sidecut Radius: 22 meters
Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull): 185.2 cm
Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 2072 & 2035 grams
Mount Location: factory recommended
Boots / Bindings: Fischer RC4 130 Vacuum / Fischer Adrenalin 13 (DIN 10)
Test Locations: Taos Ski Valley; Summit County, Telluride, CO
Days Skied: 11
Our interest in Fischer skis was piqued two summers ago after the company revamped its freeride line into two distinct series. During a review trip to Argentina, we tested the Big Stix 110, part of Fischer’s Big Stix series of twin-tipped, tip and tail rockered skis, and the Watea 106, the widest in their Watea series of directional, flat tailed freeride skis.
After conducting both reviews, one thing was very clear: Fischer’s racing history hasn’t led them to skimp on the design of fatter, rockered skis at all. If anything, the brand’s racing pedigree seems to have generated a very respectable approach to the freeride world: make skis that provide excellent response and energy on firm snow, especially through a carve, then tweak each design to provide good soft-snow, off-piste performance to the greatest degree possible.
Both the Big Stix 110 and Watea 106 offer impressive carving performance for their respective categories, and have a lot to offer in more variable conditions.
But we were curious to see how the Watea 106’s shape and rocker profile translated to a narrower all-mountain width in the 96mm-underfoot Watea 96.
In short, I’m not surprised by what I’ve found. First off, the Watea 96 has an excellent traditional feel on groomers and firm snow, so I’ll start there.
The first thing I noticed about the Watea 96 is the ski’s tail. It is wide, squared off, and pretty much completely flat (apart from a slightly turned up, rubberized notch added for skin compatibility). Take a look at the tails of the skis in Fischer’s Race and Worldcup lines, and it seems pretty clear where the inspiration for the tail of the 96 (and the wider 106, for that matter) came from.
The shape and the traditional camber of the Watea’s tail means the ski finishes turns dependably and powerfully, both on edge through a clean carve and during slower, short-radius skidded turns.
Of the skis I’ve reviewed in the past several years, I think the Watea 96 reminds me most of the Armada TST in this way, in that it provides a strong edge hold even at very high speeds through high-angle carves. The TST has a tighter 18.9m radius that doesn’t take much speed to engage, which is also helped by the fact that it is a little easier to flex and bend both underfoot and through the tail. I would call the Watea’s flex medium/stiff in the tail and underfoot, where the TST’s is a little less demanding, more squarely in the “medium” range.
The Watea 96 is easy to tip on edge, but you’ll need to be carrying some speed before its 22m radius really comes alive. After rocketing out the bottom of Taos’ Reforma on to wide open groomers, I felt totally comfortable laying the Watea 96 over as far as I could and arcing hard carves across the hill with an aggressive, forward stance.
Through transitions from arc to arc, the Watea 96 is quick and snappy, and even though the ski does have a fair amount of tip rocker, I never felt like I was working with a significantly shortened effective edge (again, probably thanks to the 96’s strong, no-nonsense tail).
Even with the Watea 96’s stout feel at speed, its tip rocker (though not as dramatically splayed out as the TST’s) makes turn initiation at slower speeds quite easy, which allowed me to bang out snappy, athletic, short-swing turns. The ski’s factory mount point is quite rearward (about 11 cms behind true center) so there isn’t a ton of ski behind the binding. But the Watea’s tail is so supportive that I could assume a very directional, forward stance and still get a nice rebound from the ski, not washing out the tail. One way or another, the Watea 96 never seems to lack energy and precision.
The TST doesn’t feel dissimilar in these ways, but it is dialed back two notches across the board in terms of how demanding it is. It takes a bit less speed to snap the TST through carves, and doesn’t require you make quite as strong a turn to work the ski smoothly through shorter, scrubbed arcs.
Even though our test pair is mounted with Fischer’s (Tyrolia’s) Adrenalin 13 AT binding, I wouldn’t say the Watea 96 feels like a particularly heavy ski by any means. Though not quite as light as the TST (which weighs about 2,035 grams per ski), the Watea 96 feels quite light for having a full beechwood core (no foam/composite hybrid construction). This lower swingweight, along with its 96mm waist, makes the Watea very capable in bumps, even ones with big, steep troughs. The ski is fast edge to edge, and can be pivoted quickly across the fall-line, making the occasional “airplane” jump-turn from one bump to the next very easy.
Though the Watea 96’s tail never ceases to provide feedback on the snow, I never felt as though it was hooking up behind me in moguls. Again, the ski is mounted very traditionally, so there isn’t a ton of extra material to contend with behind the binding. If I made a weak turn in bumps, the tails were still not likely to release on their own, but were perfectly manageable as long as I made composed turns and managed my speed well. At the same time, the Watea’s rockered shovels are a bit softer than the rest of the ski, probably more of a “medium” flex, which provides some forgiveness in bumps as they will help absorb the face of bump beside a deep trough.