As I noted at SIA / OR and in our First Look of the Ranger 102 FR, I was pretty excited about this ski as soon as I saw it. Unfortunately, there are a lot of products that end up being a bit of a letdown once we actually start testing them.
The Ranger 102 FR has not been one of those products.
I’ve had a blast skiing it in conditions ranging from firm, early-morning groomers to slushy afternoon chop. It never felt terribly out of place in any of the conditions I got it in, and it’s probably one of my favorite skis I’ve been on this year.
While I’m not usually that picky when it comes to ski tunes, my first turns on the Ranger 102 FR immediately made it apparent that this ski had an extremely sharp factory tune. This was the sharpest tune I’d ever felt on a ski, and the Ranger 102 FR felt very one-dimensional as a result (it only wanted to stay in very precise, carved turns).
So, after my first run, I detuned the whole ski, taking a coarse diamond stone to the tips and tails, and then running a soft gummy stone over the whole length of the ski. The ski felt much more versatile and intuitive after this detune, and I ended up further detuning the tails to make them easier to release. But by no means did this render the Ranger 102 FR useless on firm snow — it still carves and holds an edge very well.
Tune is very personal, so you might get along better than I did with the sharp factory tune on the Ranger 102 FR. But if you’re looking for a slightly looser feel while still maintaining good firm-snow performance, I’d consider detuning the ski (and particularly, the tails).
After detuning it, the Ranger 102 FR felt significantly more willing to break its tails free, but it’s far from the loosest or surfiest ski in this category — it still feels like it prefers to be on edge when heading down the fall line, rather than sliding sideways down it.
When it comes to the flex and pop of the Ranger FR 102, you need a significant amount of effort and / or speed to get this ski to bend. But once you do, it provides a lot of energy. At 5’8”, ~155 lbs, I had to really press hard into the tips and tails to pop off them, and was then rewarded with lots of energy / pop.
Same story in a carved turn. Once I got it up to fairly high speeds and really made an effort to bend the ski, the Ranger 102 FR provided lots of energy out of the turn. I think heavier and / or stronger skiers will have less trouble bending the ski, but for lighter skiers, the Ranger 102 FR requires more effort to bend than the (many) softer options in the all-mountain freestyle class.
In the air, the Ranger 102 FR feels pretty light, which I think is due in part to its thin “Carbon Nose.” The Ranger 102 FR feels like it has a slightly lower swing weight than I’d expect given that it weighs around 2100 grams.
The Ranger 102 FR’s twin tail does its job — you can definitely ski switch on it, just don’t expect it to feel as intuitive when compared to skis with more symmetrical shapes and more centered mounts.
Overall, the Ranger 102 FR feels like a playful, but still directional ski — it feels best when going fast downhill, but it can still be slashed, pressed, and skied switch. However, where exactly it falls in that playful vs. directional spectrum does depend a bit on the mount point, which brings us to the next section:
One of my main questions about the Ranger 102 FR was how sensitive it would feel to moving the mount point of the bindings. I really like skis that I can drive and ski with a forward stance when I want, but that are also able to break free into slashes and feel fairly balanced in the air. So, when I saw the Ranger 102 FR’s fairly traditional mount of -9.9 cm from center, I was eager to try it with the bindings moved forward a bit.
At the recommended line, the Ranger 102 FR feels very traditional, and I could drive it as hard as I wanted without any hint of it folding up on me (again, I’m only around ~155 lbs).
At +2 cm (-7.9 from center), the Ranger 102 FR felt easier to break free and I could ski it with a slightly more centered stance, but I still felt like I wanted a bit more of a balanced feel.
I ended up settling on +4 cm (-5.9 from center) as my favorite mount point. Here, I could ski from a fairly centered stance, flick the ski around easier, and still drive the front of the ski quite hard. Basically, everything I was looking for.
So, if you’re looking for a more playful ride and / or are used to skis with more centered mounts, I would not immediately write off the Ranger 102 FR due to its traditional recommended mount point.
On groomers, the Ranger 102 FR feels like a natural carver and provides very good edgehold (again, even after my detune). It prefers medium to large turns, and feels very strong, stable, and precise on consistent groomers.
When the groomers get a little more roughed up, the Ranger 102 FR does get knocked around a bit, but it feels significantly more planted and stable than the other skis I’ve used in this narrower, all-mountain-freestyle category. But if the Ranger 102 FR is not quite as smooth and damp as heavier skis, it’s also poppier and more playful than many of them. The Ranger 102 FR’s stiffer shovels also allowed me to ski with an aggressive stance and pressure the front of the ski to help keep it composed at speed (even with the bindings mounted at -5.9 cm).
If your legs are tired at the end of the day and you want to take it easy, the Ranger 102 FR can pretty easily be slid around at slower speeds on groomers thanks to its rocker profile and relatively low swing weight. But you’ll definitely want to detune the ski if you plan on doing a lot of this.
This is the only area where I have any real complaints about the Ranger 102 FR. The ski’s tails are pretty stiff, and I definitely noticed that in bumps. I still found the ski to be manageable in more open moguls, but in steep and / or big bumps with deep troughs, I had to concentrate pretty hard on staying forward to avoid being bucked by the tails. The Ranger 102 does not encourage lazy skiing in bumps.
And here it’s important to note that I prefer a more relaxed style in moguls — pivoting and sliding rather than mashing the tips of my skis into troughs. If you like to rage through bumps with an aggressive, forward stance, I think the Ranger 102 FR would probably work significantly better for that style as its shovels are quite supportive. But if you like to slide your way through bumps, there are plenty of easier and more forgiving options out there.
I’ve mostly been skiing the Ranger 102 FR in warm, spring conditions, so by around noon each day, the mountain basically turns into a minefield of soft piles of chopped-up or pushed-around slush. These sort of conditions are where the Ranger 102 FR shines.
This ski offers a really fun combination of quickness and stability. I’ve been able to blast through the softer piles at speed, then gun for a bigger patch and pop off it, easily throwing shifties and (usually missing) grabs.
There are easier and more playful skis in this class, and then there are more stable, often heavier directional options. But the Ranger 102 FR fits pretty nicely in between those two groups. It’s been stable enough in soft variable snow for me to ski pretty much as fast as I want, but it still feels comfortable slashing, popping off little lips, and skiing switch.
I haven’t had the Ranger 102 FR in a lot of firm chop or very rough variable snow, so I can’t yet comment on its performance in those conditions. I suspect that it will handle this sort of snow better than the softer and / or lighter options in this category, though, based on my time on the Ranger 102 FR on roughed-up groomers, I don’t suspect that it will offer class-leading suspension due to its fairly stout flex.
Who’s It For?
Because of that fairly stout flex pattern and preference for longer turns, I’d recommend the Ranger 102 FR to high intermediate to advanced skiers. And more specifically, I think the Ranger 102 FR could work very well for two groups of skiers:
First, I think directional skiers looking for a slightly more playful, but still pretty stable all-mountain option will get along quite well with the Ranger 102 FR. This ski definitely rewards a forward stance and good technique (especially at the recommended mount point), but it lets you play around more than most of its flat-tailed competition.
Second, I’d also recommend the Ranger 102 FR to strong, playful skiers that are looking for something that they can trick, but that will also handle high-speed run-outs and in-runs better than some of the softer and / or lighter all-mountain freestyle skis on the market. The Ranger 102 FR is not the best choice if you love to butter and make lots of small turns at slower speeds. But if you’re a skier that likes to make big, fast turns while seeking out all the side hits the mountain has to offer, then the Ranger 102 FR is worth a look. And to those people, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend bumping the bindings forward a few cm’s in front of the recommended line.
Unlike many products I’ve used, the new Fischer Ranger 102 FR has actually lived up to, and even exceeded, my expectations. It’s not the easiest, most playful, or most stable all-mountain ski on the market. But it combines some of the playfulness of less stable, freestyle-oriented skis with much of the stability and precision of more traditional options. The result? A ski that I’ve been able to ski quite hard while still taking a playful approach to the mountain.
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