2020 Fischer Ranger 94 FR Ski Review: // Ski Reviews
Ski season has all but wrapped up here in Vermont, at least in terms of lift-serviced skiing, but that doesn't mean we're slowing down on 2020 ski reviews. Back in February we released a preview of the 2020 Fischer ski lineup and we're excited to dive into more in-depth reviews of their new skis. Before we start, however, April is the Fischer month for our SkiHappy Photo Contest! For this month, Fischer is awarding a pair of 2020 Ranger 94 FR skis to the winning photo. That's right, another month where you can win next year's skis! Big thanks to Fischer for providing an awesome prize for the contest. Head on over to the contest page if you're looking for more details and get those photos submitted by the end of the month for a chance to win!
With that said, it's time to take a closer look at this 2020 Fischer Ranger 94 FR. Last summer, we reviewed the then-new Ranger 102 FR. It marked a new style of ski from Fischer, essentially taking their Ranger Ti line and tweaking it for more freeride-inspired and playful skiing styles. We saw less metal than in the Ti, with just a sheet under the bindings along with more rocker in the tail of the ski, arguably a twin-tip shape. We still got the carbon nose that we've become accustomed to seeing in Fischer's all mountain or freeride skis. All of those construction techniques are carried forward for the 2020 season, and now we get a narrower option too, the Ranger 94 FR.
The Ranger 102 FR has been a successful ski in its first season, so much so that Fischer felt the demand for a narrower option with the same overall feel. Ski manufacturers in general are noticing the interest in narrower versions of popular existing skis. This Ranger 94 FR is a perfect example. There are a lot of skiers out there that want a playful, freeride-inspired feel in their skis, but don't necessarily need something 102 mm underfoot for a daily ski. Of course, depending on the terrain and conditions where you ski, you might, but 102 mm is starting to get pretty wide if you spend most of your time on firm snow. The new Fischer Ranger line, from the FR models to the Ti models, now offer a bigger ranger of performance than ever before, and does a fantastic job covering the demands of just about every different type of advanced to expert all mountain skier out there. If you want to read or watch a description of the differences between the FR and Ti skis, we invite you to check out that 2020 Fischer Preview article. For this article, we're going to focus on the performance of the 94 FR.
With its twin-tip, freeride-inspired shape, you might not expect the Ranger 94 FR to be that great on groomers. It's understandable to fall into that assumption, as the construction and shape of the Ti models is obviously geared more towards typical on-trail performance. That said, the Ranger 94 FR does quite well. I was skiing the 177 cm length in this ski, which is a very reasonable length for my size (5'10, 150 lbs), even a little shorter than what I'm used to in certain skis. So, having a 177 cm Ranger 94 FR on my feet, especially considering the noticeably light swing weight when you first click into it, I wasn't expecting ripping groomer performance. Fischer's construction, however, is impressive. Their carbon nose has been proven to deliver stability and good torsional stiffness. Carbon is often the culprit for a ski feeling too twitchy and not particularly smooth, but the application in the tips of Fischer's skis does a really good job reducing tip flap and chatter. The torsional stiffness provided allows you to initiate a turn with more power than you might expect. It's smooth and responsive in and out of a carving turn. You're not getting a tremendous amount of energy out of the turn, much in thanks to the tail rocker shape, but it's also not sluggish. For many skiers, the Ranger 94 FR will satisfy carving demands for a daily driver ski. Those focused on precision, powerful, high-speed, race-inspired skiing will be better off on a Ranger 92 Ti, but those with less tendency for power and more of a smooth style won't be disappointed. Another way to think about it is the 94 FR does have a high performance ceiling. You can keep pushing and pushing and it keeps feeling like there's another level of performance to unlock.
As well as they link carving turns, they release their tail edge and pivot even better. They're incredibly intuitive when you're skidding or smearing your turns. The amount of torsional stiffness through the ski is perfectly matched with the tail rocker and subtle early taper. The shape of the ski lets you essentially do whatever you want, but the torsional stiffness and edge grip of the ski underfoot keeps you in check. You're not going to feel too sloppy on the Ranger 94 FR, something that can happen on softer-flexing skis with inferior construction and less edge grip. It has a perfect blend of feeling precise, but still easy, playful, and smeary when you want it to be.
That is, in my opinion, a perfect way to think about it as an off-piste ski. Like skiing moguls? You'll be hard-pressed to find something more fun than this ski, unless you're version of skiing moguls requires a super-stiff GS ski. Let's be honest, however, not many of us can ski like World Cup athletes. The Ranger 94 FR is pretty much perfect for the majority of mogul-enthusiasts out there. Again, it has such a nice blend of stability and precision underfoot with a more forgiving shape overall. The swing weight achieved by their Carbon Nose construction becomes more noticeable in off-piste terrain than anywhere else. On that 177 cm length, I felt like a Rockstar in moguls. The same can be said for trees, especially the east coast trees we have here in Vermont. They're so easy to flick around and maneuver, yet they feel supportive and stable underfoot. Sometimes on skis with this much rocker I feel a little bit unbalanced and find myself getting lost in the backseat, but the Ranger 94 FR never felt that way. Balanced, easy to stay on top of, yet enough support out of the tail that it'll help you get forward again if you technique takes a turn for the worse. It's also really fun in soft snow conditions. Not as much float as you get in the 102, but the same fun feel. Fischer's done a great job with the shape of this ski. You get good float out of the tips and tails, but the subtle, smooth early taper also gives it a smooth, non-catchy feel in deeper snow conditions. Most skiers who spend a lot of time in soft snow will likely prefer the 102, but this 94 FR does quite well in softer snow.
When the 102 was introduced, we couldn't ignore the obvious freeski/freestyle influence in its shape. The same can be said about the Ranger 94 FR, but its perhaps even more true than with the 102. I'm going to give you an example: I am a part-time freeski coach focusing on slopestyle and other park-skiing for Green Mountain Academy here in Stowe. Our head ski coach, Noah, has been skiing on Fischer for years. Before the 102, his options were true park-style twin tips (narrower, more camber, etc) and wider skis with flat tails. The 102 provided him a ski that he can ski in the park, but can still ski around the entire mountain. The 94 follows that same trend, but definitely ups the performance in the terrain park. It's lighter, it's quicker, it's easier to throw around, it's easier to initiate switch spins, it's just easier. Noah was lucky enough to get his hands on a 94 a few weeks ago and has been skiing it ever since. In talking with him, he's mostly just blown away how with easy it's making park skiing for him, and keep in mind that Noah is pushing 40. There's really nothing easy about being a park skier that age, but you wouldn't know that watching Noah on the Ranger 94 FR. Will he still ski his 102s? The answer is a resounding, undoubtable, yes. Will he spend more time on the 94? I think here in Vermont, and certainly in the terrain park, that's another easy yes.
In my opinion, the Ranger 94 FR really helps round out the Ranger line. After they added the 102, it definitely felt like there was room for a narrower version of the same thing. As all-mountain skis go, you'll have a tough time finding a ski that's more versatile, especially for skiers with a more playful, freeski style and attitude. Another interesting note about the Ranger 94 FR is the flat spot on the tail. Fischer is really thinking about their target market and the target skier here. Carve turns, maneuver through moguls, play in the terrain park, and even do some touring all on the same ski? Sounds pretty good to us.
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