Free Range from Austria

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Free Range From Austria

Fischer has always been synonymous with the Alps and an alpine ski-racing heritage. Born and bred in Austria that should come to no surprise. The brand is one of the stalwarts within the industry, one that’s still owned by the same family that started it in 1924. However, Europe’s cultural view of skiing centers around on-piste skiing and touring. It’s different than in North America, where the brands rely heavily on the freeride and all-mountain scene. So when it came time to refine the Ranger series, Fischer’s freeride line of men’s and women’s skis, as well as boots, the brand’s ability to think freely and not be tied to corporate stakeholders let the American’s steer the direction of the Ranger line. In doing so they have been steadily raking in the awards from the magazine gear guides.

“In Europe, you have your on-piste and your touring setup, with a lot of guys using their touring stuff for powder,” says Mike Hattrup US Alpine Product Manager for Fischer. “Here in the U.S. many people have one set up for the year, they’re using bindings that are touring compatible and skis/boots that perform in the resort and in alpine touring conditions.”

Hattrup, who joined Fischer two years ago, has pushed the Ranger train along. “When I got here we had a collection and a half, and I wanted to separate them more.” Hattrup, who was featured in several Gregg Stump ski films, has been an ambassador for the sport and product designer for decades, either as an athlete, guide or during his tenure while brand director at K2. Needless to say, when he showed up at Fischer he immediately noticed where the Ranger line could thrive and began creating consistency–like adjusting the taper and rocker as the skis got wider in their FR-Freeride Line and refining their TI line of skis by incorporating full-width metal. “We took the benchmark skis in the industry and skied them all. Asking ourselves where does our prototype fit in, is it better than what we have, and is that better than what the competition has?” The group, in coordination with their athlete’s input, such as Lynsey Dyer and KC Deane, worked through the development process. It was a process that also stayed true to the brand’s Austrian roots and appeal—i.e. not making the FR skis too soft.

The Ranger series of skis is now distinctly divided into three groups: FR for Freeride (115, 102, 94,) TI for Titanal (108, 99, 90) and My Ranger—a women’s collection of three skis that don’t diminish any of the male’s construction counterparts (MY Ranger 102 FR, 96 TI, and 90 TI). “Now we have two groups,” Hattrup says, referring to the FR and TI. “One is more surfy and the other is stronger on the edge.”

More importantly, Fischer’s boot line, consisting of the Ranger Free and new for this season, Ranger One, tossed the brand into the mix of do-it-all, hybrid ski boots. The Ranger Free, which debuted last year, melds the line of a resort and backcountry boot given its competence when charging the resort and yet weighs around 1,500 grams—handling the skin track with ease.

“My only complaint was they already finished the boot before I got there,” chuckles Hattrup. “I can’t take any credit, and they killed it… I never had a boot I could take to the trailhead and run on the hardpack with my race skis. It opened my eyes.”

This season’s launch of the Ranger One brings this technology into a package designed for skiers who want a wider and more user-friendly boot with all the technology of the Ranger Free. The Ranger One, now equipped with Fischer’s Vacuum fit molding process, provides a boot with a walk mode for either the parking lot, bar or backcountry and has the performance to be an every-day resort boot. “The Free is a modern ski boot—it’s our thought on what a boot should be, and the One was designed to be more comfortable, wider and easier to take on and off.”

Hattrup’s excitement isn’t just tied to his current role at Fischer. Even if he and his team have shaped a cohesive collection, he’s a skier first and is just as excited as others when new things improve the sport we love. “For the last 15 years we’ve been in the golden age of ski development,” he says noting how shape and perhaps materials will be the next round of evolution. “I remember working with McConkey and someone told him they didn’t like fat skis because they weren’t down in the powder getting face shots… McConkey replied, if you’re getting faceshots you’re going too slow,” Hattrup recalls laughing. “For a long time I kept thinking how can skiing get better, I quit saying it.”