2024 Fischer Ranger 96 & Ranger 102 Ski Review

JUNE 20, 2023 | WRITTEN BY Jeff Neagle

Over a year ago now, we coordinated with Fischer to help announce their new line of Ranger skis. Since then, it’s been, well, let’s just say interesting. From my seat in the ski industry, it feels like there’s almost a 50/50 split. There are those who love the new Rangers, in fact I’ve seen a handful of social media comments recently claiming they’re the best skis of all time. On the other hand, there are those that still miss the old Rangers, particularly the Ranger 102 FR. That ski reached iconic status with its pink graphics and versatile nature, and I certainly don’t fault anyone who misses it. As has been communicated here, however, I still think the new skis are objectively better. I’ll admit there’s a segment of skiers that would be better off on the 102 FR, but I can’t help but think that’s the minority. Is the minority opinion creeping into the public opinion? It feels like it might be, even if just a little.

This past season, we added Emily to our test team. We couldn’t be more pleased with what she brings to the table. Another perspective, and a female perspective at that, a strong background in freestyle and freeride, and the ability to communicate what she’s feeling on different skis. Back in early March, we met the Fischer crew for a day of testing and media at Stowe. We were thrilled and lucky to have incredible conditions that day, which made for excellent testing. What was also quite valuable this past season is we had a full fleet of Ranger demos in our brick and mortar shop, making it easy to grab a pair for additional testing. Between our Media Day with Fischer, our own demo fleet, and other industry events, we were able to do a substantial amount of testing on the Rangers throughout the season and, perhaps most importantly, we got Emily on them too.

At a Glance:

2024 Fischer Ranger 96

159, 166, 173, 180, 187 cm18 m @ 180 cm120 / 97 / 129 mm1,950 g @ 180 cm$799.99

There was a bit of split between Bob and I over the past year. I had grown quite fond of the new Rangers, while Bob was happy to ski something else. That’s fine. We don’t have to like all the same things, and when you think of the difference in our size (160 vs 225 lbs) it makes sense we gravitate towards different skis. We’ve seen that before with stiffer skis like the Head Kores, and this situation feels the opposite. My lighter frame doesn’t drive those skis well, while Bob’s heavier frame perhaps over-flexes the softer tips and tails of the Rangers. That’s my best guess, at least. So, in that light, it was very interesting for me to get Emily on them, particularly the 96 and 102, to see if her experience was closer to mine or closer to Bob’s. I’m happy to report that, unsurprisingly as Emily is a lightweight skier as well, her opinion is far closer to mine.

Before we get into performance, let’s touch briefly on shape and construction in the 96 and 102. The skis now use a poplar and beech wood core that’s supported by a Shaped Titanal laminate (specifically .5 mm in thickness). The Shaped Ti is almost full width, then splits and tapers into almost an H-shape. If you’re familiar with Black Crows and their H-Shape Ti, it’s like that, except shorter and a bit rounder at the ends of the metal. As you move up in width through the Ranger line, that metal gets shorter. So, the 96 has relatively long metal, although still shorter than what we see from Black Crows, K2, Volkl, or others that use similar concepts. The 102 is a bit shorter, then the 108 is even shorter, 116 is super short… you get the idea.

At a Glance:

2024 Fischer Ranger 102

155, 162, 169, 176, 183, 190 cm18 m @ 176 cm127 / 102 / 137 mm1,900 g @ 185.5 cm$799.99

From a shape perspective, essentially the opposite is true. The wider the ski, the more rocker is has. A good way to think about it is the length of metal is dictating what part of the ski is camber. It’s not exact, but it’s a good way to conceptualize or visualize what’s going on. Then speaking more specifically to the 96 and 102, the 96 is a brand new shape. That width didn’t exist in the previous Ranger line. The 96 has a pretty classic directional all-mountain shape. More tip rocker than tail rocker, some smooth early taper and nice rounded-off tips and tails, an 18 m turn radius, and a nice amount of camber underfoot. The 102 is the ski that really has caused some commotion over the past year, and as I pointed out last year, it’s important to remember these skis are basically the same exact shape (that being the Ranger 102 FR and new Ranger 102). The tail is shaped a little different, which makes it look more directional, but it truly is the same dimensions as the previous ski. The big thing here is that Shaped Ti laminate. Because that’s positioned in a specific portion of the ski, and especially because Fischer includes a little cut (Flex Cut) right where the midsole of your boot is, it limits how much you can change mount point. So, back when I said there was a certain skier type that could be disappointed, this is why I think that. If you were mounting more centered and using it for some park/freestyle skiing, it’s much harder to justify a forward mount point with this more-specific construction. I, at least, wouldn’t want to move them forward. I’m perfectly fine enjoying their directional prowess, and find I can still pop to switch for some more newschool fun from time to time.

Anyways, moving on to performance. If you want to hear directly from Emily, watch the video that’s attached to this review. I will, however, try to work in some of her thoughts. It makes it easy, actually, since her thoughts align so well with mine. Starting with the 96, the big word here is versatility. Looking at it among the sea of other ~96 mm all-mountain skis, it’s hard to put my finger on a ski that is more well-rounded and more versatile. I know that doesn’t excite some skiers, and I understand why, but it’s arguably the most valuable attribute for a ski, especially if you’re not going to have a 5-ski quiver or something like that. It’s not the strongest carving ski in the world and if you line it up against a Volkl M6 Mantra, it’s going to get its socks blown off, but it’s stronger than something like an Elan Ripstick 96. For me personally, I benefit from the softer flexing tips and tails. I like it. It makes turn initiation super easy and I never feel like I’m over-powering the ski. The 96 has a nice kick to the finish of a turn too. A good amount of feedback and energy when you exit a carve, which is very rewarding. Smooth, supple. It’s great.

What ever limitations it has due to the softer flexing tips and tails as a carving ski, it mirrors with better off-piste performance. Loose and agile in the bumps, easy to release the tail edge, both I and Emily found it to be incredibly intuitive and relatively forgiving off-piste. So, you can rip some carves on it, then you can head into the bumps, the trees, back bowls, wherever you want to take it. No problem.

If you’re looking for more soft snow performance and more off-piste abilities, move to the 102. The 102 just moves further along that spectrum. It still carves very well, but you lose a bit of the kick at the end of the turn. Makes sense as it has more rocker back there and less metal, so less to push against as you finish your turn. That said, it makes clean, round arcs and is just so fun to rip around on, even on groomers.

Off-piste, however, I think the 102 really comes alive. I fell in love with the 176 cm length, which is a bit shorter than my normal preference at 5’10” and 160 lbs. I don’t feel like I’m missing any stability at speed or carving performance on that length, and I gain a ton of flickability. This is something Emily found too. It’s pretty easy to move the ski around, as long as you’re on the right length. Go too long, and it can feel a bit cumbersome. That’s something both Emily and I experienced as well. Emily skied it in the trees on a longer length and found herself really having to plan her line, rather than adapting and making decisions on the fly. Probably the safer way to ski, anyways, but it’s true. For me, that’s the difference between the 183 and 176. 176 feels lively, 183 I have to plan ahead. For Emily, I imagine that’s the difference between the 169 and 176. So, I suppose the moral of the story is pay attention to your length choice and probably don’t size up, even if you normally would on similar skis.

Is it worth talking about park? We did last year. I’ll just touch on it briefly here. The 102 FR, as I mentioned, was used quite a bit as a park ski. A good friend of mine and the Program Director and Head Ski Coach for Green Mountain Academy LOVED it. It let him enjoy the whole mountain, but still found it capable in the park. The new Ranger 102 is definitely still capable in the park, it’s just not quite as balanced. So, it basically comes down to your own expectations as a skier. Straight airs, 360s, the occasional 540? No problem. Ranger 102 will work just fine. Double corks, high level rail tricks, and big switch spins? Go buy a different ski, unless you’re one of the best park skiers in the world, in which case, you’re probably not reading this anyways.

In summary, I know the new Rangers aren’t for everyone. Park friends are upset, Bob doesn’t love it as much as others… I get it. I really do. That won’t stop me from feeling like it’s an overall improvement over the previous skis. I actually like it more and I fall into that park category pretty darn squarely. Some of my best turns (in my opinion) have been made on the Ranger 96. If I feel those things, and Emily feels those things, there must be others who will too. Judging by those social media comments of “best skis ever,” I’m not wrong. Are they right for you? That’s a harder question to answer, but I would say if you’re anything like Emily or myself, the answer is probably yes.