Ski: 2015-2016 Volkl Mantra, 177cm
Blister’s Measured Dimensions (mm): 131-100-119
Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull): 177.8cm
Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 2,078 grams & 2,092 grams
[Editor’s Note: Here we originally previewed the 14/15 Mantra. The ski was not changed for the 15/16 season, apart from the graphics. This preview (and the reviews that follow it) also applies to the 15/16 Mantra.]
For the first time in the illustrious history of the Mantra, Volkl has ditched the traditional camber.
In some respects, this shouldn’t be a huge surprise. Volkl has been going reverse camber for a while, from the Katana, the Shiro, the Bridge, and the Gotama, to the ONE and the TWO last season, to the THREE next season.
But somehow, it never dawned on me that they would ever do more than add tip rocker to the Mantra. And it’s pretty remarkable to consider that the Kendo (which comes back unchanged next season) is now the only ski with traditional camber underfoot in Volkl’s all-mountain or big-mountain freeskiing line.
For those who tend to think of Volkl as a “traditional” ski company … things aren’t looking so traditional these days.
But given just how excellent the Katana is, it would be pretty difficult to doubt Volkl’s ability to create a somewhat similar, narrower version of it. Really (and obviously), the question will come down to how it stacks up against the 13/14 Mantra and the other skis in the category.
Truth in Advertising? “100mm” vs. “98mm”
Volkl says that the new Mantra is 100mm underfoot, 2mm wider than the 13/14 Mantra.
While nobody ought to care much about those 2 millimeters, the question is, Is it true? Or did Volkl just keep the same width and decide they’d now rather call a 98mm ski a 100mm ski?
Calipers show that Volkl is telling the truth, 100%. The 184cm, 13/14 Mantra measures at exactly 98mm at the waist, and the new 177cm Mantra measures at exactly 100mm underfoot.
For some odd reason, we like it when companies manage to get their specs correct, so kudos to Volkl for the precision.
Flex Pattern: New vs. Current Mantra
Let me start by saying that this is an apples-to-oranges comparison, but I’m sure some people are curious. Handflexing definitely doesn’t tell the whole story, and if you’re going to draw conclusions about whether Volkl has softened up the Mantra, you should do a 184 new vs. 184 old.
With that caveat … the 14/15 177 flexes awfully close to the 13/14 184. It’s probably a touch softer in the tip and tail, but the difference is subtle enough that I’d call it irrelevant, and we can move on to assessing how well the new shape and camber profile works on snow. Speaking of that camber profile…
The 14/15 Mantra probably has the most subtle rocker profile of any ski I’ve ever seen. The top picture on the next page gives the best sense of this. Our pair is definitely flat underfoot, so this is not a truly continuous reverse-camber profile.
Comparisons to the 180cm Blizzard Bonafide
The “177” Mantra and the “180” Bonafide are almost identical in length: 177.8cm vs. 178.0cm.
The 180 Bonafide has more tip splay than the current or new Mantra; traditional camber underfoot, unlike the new Mantra; and the Mantra actually has a less tapered tail and slightly more tail splay than the Bonafide.
While the Bonafide is certainly a “looser” ski than the current Mantra, I will be very curious to see if it still feels looser / more pivot-y than the new Mantra.
When handflexing the 184cm 13/14 Mantra skis side-by-side, the most noticeable difference is that the shovels of the Bonafide are softer than both the 13/14 Mantra and the 14/15 Mantra.
Anyway, we’ll leave it at that for now. Taos just picked up more than two feet of new snow, so we’ll be jumping on some fatter skis right now.
But since the 177cm 14/15 Mantra is the direct comparison to the 180cm Bonafide we reviewed, we’ll put time in on the 177 Mantra, then time on the 14/15 184 Mantra to see how it stacks up to the 13/14 184 Volkl Mantra.
Update: You can now read our reviews of the 2014-2015 (2015-2016) 177 and 184cm Mantra.
NEXT: Rocker Profile Pics