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2013-2014 Fischer Watea 96

review of the Fischer Watea 96, Blister Gear Review

Fischer Watea 96

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.

Groomers

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.

Will Brown reviews the Fischer Watea 96, Blister Gear Review

Will Brown on the Fischer Watea 96, Bonanza, Taos Ski Valley.

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.

Bumps

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.

Will Brown reviews the Fischer Watea 96, Blister Gear Review

Will Brown, Poco Gusto, Taos Ski Valley.

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.

9 Comments

  1. Colin February 17, 2014 Reply

    Hey Will,

    I suppose in this context you could go either way and say it’s a purposeful double-entendre, but’s it’s actually “piqued” not “peaked.”

    Nice review. I’ve been wondering about Fischer’s latest stuff.

  2. Mads February 25, 2014 Reply

    Hi Will,

    I have read your review on the Völkl Bridge and was wondering how you would compare it to the Watea.

    Cheers,
    Mads

    • Will Brown March 22, 2014 Reply

      Hey Mads,

      The Bridge falls in a different genre of all-mountain ski in my eyes, one more defined by skis that are suited for switch skiing and a more playful approach to the mountain in general. The Watea is going to feel significantly more locked down and more energetic (especially on groomers), thanks to its mostly traditional camber profile, where the Bridge is going to feel more forgiving and will be more willing to smear and skid turns. Both are good skis, but for two different sorts of skiers.

      Will

  3. Mark April 8, 2014 Reply

    Will, Thanks for the great review. I am putting it on my “to think about” list. I currently ski the JJ in a 185 for the powder days and a Kastle MX98 (pre tail rocker) in a 174. The Kastle’s are a great ski, but I wonder at 6’1″ and 165 if I just can’t muscle them enough to make them work for me instead of the other way around. On the groomers when I have plenty of room to make wide turns and mach speed, they are great, but in Tahoe, who the heck can ski like that every day? I was hoping to sell the Kastle’s and pick up a more playful ski to use when I am not on the JJs. These sound promising. I love to find stuff off-piste to ski, to take jumps off small 5′ jumps and such. I don’t do a lot of switch when I’m not in the park (I have AR7s for that). I was getting interested in the Bibby pros by their reveiws, but they are probably too close to the JJs. I have heard good things about the Atomic Theory, the Line Sir Francis Bacon’s, Armada TST, and the moment belafonte to name a few otheres. I tried the Mantras about three years ago and they felt dead to me. I think it was the metal. It was before they changed the shape. Sorry for the novel. Good for you guys and the great reviews. I love skiing. It’s the best…

    • Will Brown September 11, 2014 Reply

      Hi Tomas,

      Really sorry I missed you comment until now. I would say you’d be fine with the 186cm Watea – it seems like a nice match for the sort of skiing you’re describing. As for the tails, no – they are wide, squared off, and pretty much completely flat (apart from a slightly turned up, rubberized notch added for skin compatibility).

      Cheers,

      Will

  4. Tomas Ibanez May 19, 2014 Reply

    Hey Will,
    Very interesting review, thank you. I’ve been following these skies for some time, and now I want to buy a pair. My question is what length do you recommend for me? I live in Chile, so I ski the Andes, especially in Portilllo, I also go to the US, Colorado, to ski some times, but mainly ski in Chile. I am 35 years old, love sports, height 183 cm, weight 80 Kg, have skied all my life (lets say 2 to 3 weeks every season), advanced to expert skier but obviously not a preofessional. I can ski any terrain very well (enjoy off piste in steep mountains, bumps, etc), but not interested in jumping off rocks, etc. I know there is not an exact answer to my question, but considering this info, what length of Watea 96 de you recommend? I suppose it would be either the 178 or the 186 cm, but help me with this decision, what do you say? thank you!! Tomás. And one other question: Do the wateas 96 have some rocker in the back or only in front?

  5. gus July 31, 2015 Reply

    Hey Will,
    Currently looking for a second, well really third ski, to fit between a pair of 186 Bodacious, and skinny SL skis, What I want is a ski for resort skiing mainly on groomed terrain that will also allow me to go sidecountry when theres not much new snow or for those days when you get just a few inches of new snow. last few winters I’ve been happy skiing most of the season on the Bodacious, but I’ve been very lucky with the schedules as I’ve managed to be in the mountains, all the times that there’s been a decent storm. So I assume this winter I won’t be that lucky so I’m gearing to have a very capable piste ski.
    Do you think I’ll be happy on the Ranger 96, as said it would be a 70% groomed – 30% side with not too much snow. Also regarding size, I’m 5’8″ and 165lbs, what size would you go for considering they won’t see deep stuff, for reference I’m comfortable with the 186 bodacious off-piste, but when railing groomers there are a bit of a handful, is hard to rest your legs the between laps when you have to straight point them to go back to the lift…

  6. Peter August 12, 2017 Reply

    I have the Watea 96 and the 106. I live in Australia and ski often in Canada and Japan. Will’s description of the skis is accurate. The 106 is great for big deep powder days but the 96 will do them too, and everything else. Surprisingly nimble in the bumps and predictable on high speed groomers. I have recently put Marker Kingpins on them and have found they are fantastic for backcountry skinning. So I use the 96’s probably 80% of the time. They are undoubtedly the closest to a one ski quiver I have ever owned.
    Peter H, Red Hill, Auatralia

  7. Gord October 25, 2017 Reply

    I am curious about your thoughts on lenght. I am 5’9″ and about 183 lbs. I am by no means a true expert but I would say an expert recreational skier who sticks to frontside blacks and does them all well and frequently dabbles in trees shots , chutes and double blacks. trying to decide bewteen 178 and 186

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