Ski: 2016-2017 Fischer Ranger W 98, 172 cm
Available Lengths: 156, 164, 172 cm
Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull): 170.4 cm
Stated Dimensions (mm): 132-98-122
Blister’s Measured Dimensions (mm): 124-95-115
Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 1,607 & 1,557 grams
Stated Sidecut Radius: 17 meters
Core Construction: Poplar + Titanal Metal + Carbon Fiber Stringers + Fiberglass Laminate
Boots / Bindings: Lange RS 120 S.C. / Marker Griffon (DIN at 7)
Mount Location: Recommended Line
Test Locations: Taos Ski Valley, NM; Crested Butte, CO
Days Skied: 6[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 15/16 Ranger W 98, which was not changed for 16/17, apart from graphics.]
For the 15/16 season, Fischer has completely retooled their men’s and women’s freeride line. In addition to their new touring-specific skis, Fischer has lightened up their Ranger series to make them better suited for use inbounds or out.
The Ranger W 98 is the widest offering in Fischer’s new women’s freeride line, and is made with a carbon tip and their light Air Tec Ti core, so that the ski is light, but still offers sufficient stability.
My first impression picking up the Ranger W 98 was that the ski felt extremely light; I didn’t doubt that it would tour well, but I was curious as to how stable it would feel.
Walking away from the SIA tradeshow this past January, it was evident that the main theme of the show was that skis were getting lighter and more touring-oriented. Given my racing background, I still have a thing for all-mountain skis that offer a stiffer, damper ride, so I was admittedly a bit skeptical about all of the lighter options. I really like skis like the Blizzard Samba and the Volkl Aura on pretty much any day when there is less than half a foot of new snow. Then again, I’m also open to lighter options, as I’ve also really enjoyed the Line Pandora and the Rossignol Savory 7.
The Ranger W 98 has a good amount of rocker in the tip, slightly less in the tail, with camber underfoot. It also has a flat tail with pretty minimal splay. The Ranger W 98’s weight and design remind me a bit of the Savory 7 and the Salomon Lumen, both pretty lightweight skis that I’ve really enjoyed, especially for carving.
My first day on the Ranger W 98 was a gorgeous spring day in Taos, with sunny but firm conditions. I spent most of the afternoon lapping groomers, waiting for the snow to soften a bit, which it never really did.
My initial thought after my first run was, unsurprisingly, how light the ski felt underfoot. Getting the ski up to speed felt pretty good; the Ranger W 98 had a good tune and could hold an edge well.
At slower speeds, the Ranger W 98 made quick and energetic carves. Before skiing it, I measured the ski’s dimensions and found that the ski’s width is actually 95mm underfoot, not 98mm, as the ski’s name would suggest. So, the Ranger W 98 is one of the narrower skis I’ve been on recently, and combined with the ski’s camber and flatter tail, I wasn’t too surprised how natural it felt to carve them.
At this point, there were still a number of slick patches on the snow, so I didn’t feel quite as comfortable bringing the ski up to speed and really trusting to lay it over into a deep carve on steeper pitches. But cruising along making medium-sized arcs, I could easily transition from turn to turn.
However, once I brought the ski a little more up to speed, the Ranger W 98 didn’t feel so great. Given the ski’s relatively short length and smaller turning radius, I figured that I wouldn’t be able to make massive, high speed turns, but I was hoping to feel a little more comfortable going fast. Once I got going on the Ranger W 98, the ski’s low weight became very apparent, and I felt a chatter and shakiness on the firm snow that concerned me. I needed to make a very conscious effort to stand on my outside ski through the turn; if I released some pressure, the ski would move around, threatening to shoot out from under me. I really didn’t like this feeling, so skied at a more moderate speed for the rest of the day.
I was a bit surprised the Ranger W 98 felt so unstable going fast on firmer snow since the Lumen Q-96 (170cm) has been one of my absolute favorites in similar conditions. I really didn’t find a speed limit on the Lumen Q-96, even though it also felt like a fairly lighter ski, and could really trust it to hold an edge on icy snow.
Off piste and in some mildly bumpy hardpack and firmer moguls, the ski felt less shaky, but more jarring. Slowing down helped me to maintain control of the ski a bit better, but the ski also felt like more work at slower speeds.
So if you know that you prefer a stiff, damp ski in firm conditions, the Ranger W 98 isn’t the ski for you.
Post-Storm Condensed Pow
The next time I got out on the Ranger W 98 was a couple of days after a storm in Crested Butte. The resort had gotten over a foot of new snow, and there were some areas that hadn’t been skied off yet, but the snow was windblown and fairly punchy in places. Overall, the snow was inconsistent, with patches of softer snow, but plenty of areas where the snow had already condensed.
Working my way down some of Crested Butte’s steeper terrain off of the North Face Lift, I felt a bit frustrated on the Ranger W 98. The light skis kept getting caught up in some of the wind buffed pow; even though I was pointing my skis down the hill, I felt like the Ranger W 98 didn’t have quite enough power to work through the more condensed snow. The tips would get deflected, and occasionally, the tails would get caught up, throwing me off.
The next day, in fairly similar conditions, I took out the Moment Sierra, which of course is a heavier ski and has twinned, looser tails, but I felt a lot more competent on this terrain and snow. This definitely led me to believe my issues had been more with the Ranger W 98 than purely difficult conditions. I do still need to get the Ranger W 98 in fresher, softer snow, but as with a number of light skis I’ve been on, once that pow becomes chop and begins to consolidate, it won’t be nearly as enjoyable.
Once I got back on the groomers, which were significantly softer and more forgiving than the first day I skied it, the Ranger W 98 was a whole lot more fun. The ski had more of a chance to dig into the snow, and I felt significantly more comfortable going fast. In small, medium, or large radius turns, I could generate a ton of energy from the ski with relatively little input. With so little weight, I could work them from side to side so easily, making fast and super energetic carves. Even though the platform didn’t feel quite as sturdy as the Salomon Lumen Q-96, I loved how effortless it was to carve, and really felt like the more playful characteristics of the ski come out.
Once the groomers got a little roughed up, or smaller bumps had formed, I had to slow down a bit; hitting an inconsistency in the snow at speed would toss me around. Even though the skis started to deflect at speed, slowing down really helped manage this issue, and I could enjoy the ski much more with less speed and a more relaxed stance.
Soft Spring Skiing
The rest of my time on the Ranger W 98 was spent in full-on spring conditions, with anything from slush, to corn, to softer bumps. With a little more time on the ski, and with softer snow, I came to like the Ranger W 98 a lot more than I had initially off piste.
Whereas I was struggling a bit with the tails grabbing in deeper snow before, through slushier moguls, the Ranger W 98 felt much faster and more nimble. I took several laps down Crested Butte’s Resurrection, which has a steep, fairly consistent pitch and large, well-shaped bumps. It was easy to find a rhythm and lightly bounce from trough to trough. Getting the ski going a little faster actually made the ski feel much quicker and more lively; whenever I slowed, the tails made things feel a bit sluggish, but speed would quickly mitigate that.
In areas that had less defined bumps, but weren’t smooth, the Ranger W 98 could be quick and responsive. My attempts to push the ski fast down sections like Headwall or Hawk’s Nest on Crested Butte in springy conditions weren’t super successful, and at high speeds, I really felt the ski’s instability return. However, slowing down, making quicker, shorter radius turns through trees or down faces was a lot of fun. Once I was able to adapt my skiing a bit, my experience on the Ranger W 98 was exponentially better.
Who’s It For?
As with any ski, it is important to think about where and what type of snow you’ll be skiing, and I’ve found that the Ranger W 98 is most fun in softer, consistent conditions.
Since the Ranger W 98 is most at home in soft conditions, if you’re generally out when the conditions are good (or you have another ski for those firm or bulletproof days) the W 98 could make a lot of sense.
I also think the ski will make more sense for those who will be using it more often for touring, rather than calling on it for use as a dedicated resort ski (and the chopped up, variable conditions that are part and parcel of resort skiing).
Inbounds, I had a lot of fun on the Ranger W 98 at moderate speeds, and in mostly softer or consistent conditions—which reminds me a lot of the Savory 7. However, I still found the Savory 7 to be just a touch more playful and responsive. The Ranger W 98 was more lively than the Savory 7 when carving, but the Savory 7 had a bit more life in virtually every other condition.
The Ranger W 98 is a pretty accessible ski, and I think it could be a good option for (a) intermediate-to-advanced women looking for a narrower touring ski, or (b) a sub-100mm underfoot one-ski-quiver for those looking for a resort + backcountry ski and don’t plan to ski too aggressively.
The Fischer Ranger W 98 is lightweight ski that has done really well in soft and consistent snow, and is a blast to carve on. If you’re not looking to ski too aggressively in firm or variable conditions, the Ranger W 98 could be a good option as single ski for the resort and backcountry touring.
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