The Hannibal does not excel in any one category, and we find this again and again in our OutdoorGearLab reviews. Our award winners, recognized to be the best of the best, can excel in one significant way and then ride out through the remaining categories with medium-to-high scores. We develop our scoring matrix based on how the given equipment will be used. We divide the performance into a suite of scoring metrics and then weight those metrics for their relative value.
For backcountry skis then, we evaluate uphill performance by assessing weight. We assess downhill performance in terms of stability, firm snow performance, powder performance, and poor snow performance. If we were to evaluate the skis on only their downhill performance, the Fischer would come out near the middle. When we consider its light construction for uphill efficiency, however, we find that the Hannibal leaps toward the top.
Fischer Hannibal 96 skis and lead test editor Jediah Porter up high in Grand Teton National Park. December 2017.
The North American ski market, in recent history, has emphasized mass and width, resulting in a selection of products that is generally wider and heavier than we deem necessary. At OutdoorGearLab, we are thankful to see narrower and lighter skis making a comeback of sorts. This Hannibal is a classic all-conditions touring ski with contemporary materials and a nod to modern dimensions. Fischer gets the skis so light by keeping them narrow and thin, somewhat compromising durability and ski performance. They integrate just enough carbon fiber to stiffen the ride and then bring proper alpine ski technology to the overall package.
Backcountry skiing is becoming a big business. Historically, alpine ski manufacturers made backcountry skis that skied well but were heavy, while the touring brands made skis that were light but didn't descend well. This Fischer model marks a departure from that norm, joining truly innovative lightweight construction with downhill pedigree. We'll say it again, the weight of the Hannibal 96 is perfect.
Prognosticators are regularly proven wrong, but we are willing to bet that all-around backcountry skis will not get much lighter than this for years and years to come. Specialized skis, of course, take the weight loss to even further extremes. At those extreme low weights, ski performance diminishes even more dramatically. For uphill performance, of course, lighter skis excel; for most backcountry skiers in most conditions and for most objectives, the Hannibal and its like strike the perfect weight balance.
Lead test editor "mountaineering skiing" in the San Juans of Colorado. The light and short profile of the Fischer Hannibal is perfect for this sort of techy mountain travel.
Stability at Speed
The feel at speed and in steep, high-energy riding with the Hannibal belies its ultralight construction. We do not know how Fischer did it, but the Hannibal allows for high-speed cruising and lands big jump turns almost as well as the much burlier products. One ski tester said about the Hannibal, without really considering the weight, "they just feel like an average alpine ski". This is high praise for an ultralight special-purpose product.
At the same weight and similar dimensions, other skis bring noticeably better stability than the Hannibal. All those that do, though, are much more expensive than the Hannibal.
Firm Snow Performance
While the lack of material in the Fischer cannot possibly be as stiff as something like the heavier choices, the narrow profile provides more than adequate edge grip. In steep, rock-hard San Juan spring ski touring, the Hannibal hung on when it mattered the most. We also did some resort riding as part of a side-country avalanche course at Vail Mountain and found that the Fischer could rail groomed run turns as if it were not a 6-pound touring machine.
As compared to the other ultralight skis, the hand/bench flex tests, we did make them all seem similar. If one were to casually flex both the Hannibal and the G3 FINDr 102, both would seem stiff enough for firm snow grip. It sure seems, however, that the almost 1 cm difference in width gives the hard snow edge to the Hannibal. We definitely found that the Hannibal performed better on the hard stuff.
Comparative ski testing means switching products frequently. Here, Jed Porter returns to the car to swap the Fischer Hannibal for the Volkl VTA 96. It is testament to the Fischer's value that it requires little adjustment in technique after the polished VTA.
All skis we used were fun in powder. Our test roster varied in waist width by 34 mm, and we have used even bigger and even smaller skis in perfect powder snow. The widespread opinion holds that wider is better for powder. True, one can go faster on wide skis in powder.
And one can make turns on lower angled slopes with wider skis. But when it is truly excellent, all modern skis are amazing in powder snow. If the powder is perfect, we would rather be able to bust out extra laps with lightweight, narrow skis, than be worn out by lugging the big guns up those same fluffy slopes.
Every modern ski is amazing in perfect powder snow. The Hannibal smokes up low angle Wyoming fluff.
Crud/Poor Snow Performance
In poor snow, width, mass and construction matter the most. Bigger, more rockered skis ride better when the going gets breakable or sloppy. To make a narrow ski perform adequately in the tough stuff is a more difficult task. We will not sugar coat it; the Hannibal did not perform as well in the chop as bigger and/or more sophisticated skis.
What the Hannibal did, though, was get us through the inevitable bad snow with style. More than with most of the skis we reviewed, we were able to ski through poor snow with low-energy parallel turns. The edges grabbed minimally, the tips stayed up and out of the crust, and the tails followed where we intended to go. We cannot say that these charge the poor snow like a bigger tool would, but we can say that they do better than mere survival.
In funky snow, high energy turns and the mass and construction of the Hannibal 96 get you far.
Not far above the least expensive ski in our review but scoring among the best overall, these are an outstanding deal. They are slightly more difficult to find than skis from American companies. The high overall scoring at a reasonable price earned them our Best Buy award.
Value is also a matter of durability. Skis that last longer are less expensive to ride, per day out. We had no problems with the durability of the Hannibal. In our skiing for testing, mainly typical backcountry touring in the American and Canadian mountain west, we generally rode easy and climbed all that we skied down. Had our testing been more resort-based, we may have risked breaking the lightweight Hannibal. Had more of our testing been in super-thin conditions like faced in recent years in California and in many seasons in the Northeast, the thin bases and edges may have suffered some damage. As it was, we did ski some in drought California and suffered no damage. These aren't made for durability, but as compared to their lightweight peers, we have no reservations.
The newest Hannibal from Fischer is heavier and slightly wider -both good things for downhill ski ability- than the award winning predecessor.
For all of our testers, the low weight of the Hannibal was their first impression. And, arguably, it is the Hannibal's most salient characteristic. For those for whom weight isn't a huge deal, the Hannibal's moderate (but very uniform) ski performance is a little underwhelming. One tester, after an initial test ride, was thoroughly unimpressed by the Hannibal; this tester rides heavy skis and doesn't mind the weight. Every other person to use the Hannibal liked its whole package of weight-to-performance ratio.
Our lead tester describes it as a ski to replace a quiver of three; it's a light mountaineering ski, good for day-to-day ski tour guiding, and the perfect ski to travel with. In the past, this lead editor would have constructed a quiver of three products to do what the Hannibal does on its own. In overall scoring, the Fischer comes out in the upper portions. It skis better than many more expensive skis and is lighter than most of the best downhill performers. Only the Editors' Choice better optimizes uphill and downhill performance but at a higher price.
We test in "real" human powered ski conditions. Even in a "drought year", Wyoming's Teton Pass allows for early season turns. Here, the Fischer Hannibal 96.