Ski: Fischer Ranger 88ti
Conditions: great snow at Copper (4-8" of fresh over a soft base); Spring snow day at Bachelor (6-8" of new over crust); warm 50 degree April stunner of classic spring snow
Skis: Fischer Ranger 88ti, 178cm. Mounted with Tyrolia Attack 13 Demo bindings. Tune: ground once flat.
This ski was kind of off my radar until seeing the ski in person. It brought back memories of the old Watea, but with a thinner profile, titanium reinforcement, bit lighter in weight. Still the same meat-size 178cm length available. Tip profile is updated, similar to the Motive: quite a bit of rise, fairly steep, not that long, with a non-tapered tip. Definitely not designed as a 5-point type ski.
FWIW, the Watea was really a great ski for the skier who primarily lived off-piste, but wasn't interested in getting beat up like those Mantra skiers, or just a lighter, more finesse oriented skier. It really was superb for it's day.
First up, at Copper, light, blower pow that was tracked out, and good, well spaced bumps. This was really the best ski I was on in 2 days of demoing for these conditions. Tight trees; easy. Very quick to change direction; the ski never felt like it was fighting me. I had just been on the Progressor 900 the run before in the trees and was fighting it. Got on this ski and was instantly on top of my game. So forgiving. Rolled it out to some softer, cut-up bumps, and had the same feeling. Almost floaty in the bumps, so easy to handle the tail of this ski. Early but not aggressive tip engagement. Smooth. This ski was made for bumps; very impressive overall feel. Just the kind of off-piste technical ski I would want on my feet. Opening it up in bigger turns off-piste, a speed limit was found, at maybe around 35mph. Not unstable, but also not containing the super high top end of a stiffer ski. I particularly liked how this ski handled the top of the turn: the tip was everything you want in a good off-piste ski. Not super aggressive, but not vague either. No tip flap; if you can tip and get early top of the turn edge, you will find the ski to be very confident. With just a bit of tipping and cuff of the boot pressure, it loaded easily. Predictable but not dead.
2nd new snow day at Bachelor was more of the same. Skiing more familiar terrain, I opened it up more off Northwest lift, in some bigger, wide open west bowl turns; windpack up top, blower snow down low. The ski was a little narrow for punchy windpack, and came into it's own once down in the trees. So much fun ripping through those steep little pitches, where a nimble ski comes in handy. The trees come up on you quickly there. Again, this reminds me in feel and performance of the venerable Elan 888/999 (Apex/Spire). Maybe not quite as stable as the Apex, even more nimble though. I just think "turn" and it happens: if I actually down-unweight and move my feet like I should be doing, the ski just rips around. At speed in cut-up snow, stability was about average.
Last day at Bachelor: sun and spring snow. In icy spots, the edge grip was fine. Not a shark-bike edge like a stiffer ski, but had a predictable loading and solid grip once you have the edge angle and countering. Skiing the top of the cirque, it was pretty firm the first few turns, and I actually felt very confident on a 38 degree pitch that was just starting to thaw. I could commit to releasing myself down the fall line and know the ski would hook up as soon as I loaded it. Down below, on the sun-baked snow, the tip had plenty of surf, and was a great choice for any type of turn. Bachelor allows you to really open things up and rip at speed off Summit, and above a certain speed, the Ranger became a touch nervous. The Motive would have been better here. This isn't a ski for 40mph+ excursions, it can do OK, but lacks the beef of some other options out there.
On the lower hero groomers; it was a zoomy ski in these conditions: The tip, with a bit of soft snow to bite into, really pulled me through the turn. Much more groomer fun than some of the other off-piste oriented skis I have been on recently, especially in this width. Compared to the Brahma from Blizzard, I felt this ski gave up some stability and crud-crushing ability, but gained in softer snow edge engagement and tip and tail release/fun factor; as well as overall ability in tight spaces and bumps. I could easily run the Ranger as my groomer mid-energy ski. I could run the Brahma too: the power on edge is substantial, but the ski was more vague at the top of the turn and at the finish; more even flex on the Ranger, more on/off on the Brahma. Completely different feel, and the Brahma is more stable, the Ranger more nimble.
This was a super impressive ski. We bought a bunch to add to our "Performance rental" ski category; which is basically a demo ski but that doesn't need to be replaced yearly. A ski for a decent to good skier that wants a versatile tool for the hill, but isn't interested in purchasing a new ski and therefore doesn't want to pay the "demo" premium. Seemed like a very versatile choice that won't push anyone around, but is capable in the hands of even top skiers.