Bottom Line on the 2014-2015 Volkl Mantra, 177cm
As someone who loves the 13/14 184cm Mantra, I have been very impressed with the new 177 Mantra. Volkl has managed to make a more accessible ski that doesn’t require as much power or speed to come to life, yet this ski can still be pushed very hard and fast. It is still a substantial ski—it is not “dead-easy” if that’s what you are looking for—but the lower end of the Mantra has been improved, and it now works better in mellower terrain and at mellower speeds than the 13/14 Mantra.
The Surprise: 2014-2015 Volkl Mantra, 184cm
After my third day on the new 177 Mantras, and a day before I got out on the new 184s, I wrote this note:
“Can’t believe how hard I was able to push the 177s. I have no doubt that I will prefer the 184s, and I really want to get on the 191s.”
Except that after nine days and a whole lot of tinkering, I don’t prefer the new 184 Mantra to the 177 Mantra.
The 14/15 177 Mantra feels substantial yet nimble, easy, and accessible. The 14/15 184 has felt heavy and a bit cumbersome, and I haven’t been able to get it to handle nearly as well as either the 14/15 177cm Mantra or the 13/14 184cm Mantra.
I found the 177s to be nimble and surprisingly substantial. I would not call the new 184s “nimble” or particularly quick; and again, at least in firm, fast, bumped up conditions and in spring slush, the 13/14 Mantra feels quicker, more nimble, and more precise.
• 2013-2014 184cm Mantra: Actual Length = 183.0cm Weight = 2058 & 2071 grams
• 2014-2015 177cm Mantra: Actual Length = 177.8cm Weight = 2078 & 2092 grams
• 2014-2015 184cm Mantra: Actual Length = 182.8cm Weight = 2145 & 2165 grams
There’s not a lot that jumps out here, but there are a couple things worth noting:
(1) While the new 177s run a touch longer than stated, the new 184 runs shorter. We normally see a consistency of a little short or a little long on size runs.
(2) the 14/15 177 Mantra is actually slightly heavier than the 13/14 184cm Mantra, while the new 184 Mantra is ~100 grams per ski heavier than the 13/14 184. I wouldn’t normally care about 100 grams, except that the new 184s feel on snow less nimble / more cumbersome than the 13/14 184s.
While I immediately clicked with the new 177 Mantra, I still haven’t clicked with the 184. In trying to figure out what was going on, I put true bars on both the 177 and 184, and both skis looked good, but the 184s were just a touch edge high. It was so slight, though, that I normally wouldn’t have thought twice about it. But since the skis weren’t behaving like I wanted them to, I took the skis to the Taos BootDoctors and got the skis a stone grind and a 1/1 tune. (The skis, by the way, were brand new, never skied, when we received them.) The stone grind came out beautifully, but I didn’t notice any improvement in performance.
Where Did the 14/15 184cm Mantra Work Best?
Pow. Fresh boot-to-knee-deep pow off of Kachina Peak and West Basin, when conditions were basically perfect, not difficult. And to reiterate, I do think that I could pretty happily ski the new 184s in a few feet of pow, where I would have little interest in doing so on the 13/14 Mantra.
The 14/15 184s also performed well on groomers, but at my weight, at least, I did not find them to be as exciting as the 177s. These skis “ski” heavy; the 177s do not. Nor (to me, at least) does the 13/14 Mantra.
3.10.14 – Tricky Conditions: 13/14 184cm Mantra vs. 14/15 184cm Mantra
I skied the 14/15 184s on the first half of the day, and the 13/14 184s on the 2nd half. While the day was warm, there were winds coming up from below that kept conditions very fast and firm on Reforma, Pollux, and Castor. Conditions were a bit softer up on West Basin’s Stauffenberg, Stauf Trib, Zdarsky, and Turbinator.
In the firm, fast, bumped-up conditions (Reforma, Pollux, Castor, Winston), I struggled on the 14/15 184s. They felt off in a big way, sluggish and unresponsive. I tried moving the mount point to +1, but while it did quicken the ski up a bit, it also left me with too much tail, and the ski didn’t feel balanced. I haven’t yet tried going behind the line, but I don’t expect this to make the ski feel quicker / more balanced. (And again, I like the “0” line for both the 13/14 184 and the 14/15 177.) I felt like I couldn’t ski at all, and I couldn’t even get myself to head down my favorite run, Reforma.
But maybe I was just off. So I went and got the 13/14 Mantras…
Back on the 13/14 184s, they immediately felt lighter, more nimble, more maneuverable. I was instantly back to having fun in difficult, unforgiving conditions, and suddenly I could ski again. I went and hit Reforma. Fun. I finished off the day with runs down Rhoda’s and the big bumps on Edelweiss, skiing fast and with confidence. The difference was night and day.
The 14/15 177cm Mantra feels more akin to the 13/14 184 Mantra than does the 14/15 184 Mantra. The weights are more comparable between the 14/15 177 Mantra and the 13/14 184 Mantra.
This is the first time I think I’ve ever advised this way, but unless you are skiing flat out in wide open spaces, I’d predict that skiers in the 185 to 200 lb. range might prefer the 177 Mantra to the 184. Again, the new 177 weighs more than the 13/14 184.
I would not be quick to size up on these. I can only speak to the 177 vs. 184, but the 184s have not felt like they provided a significant bump in stability so much as they came with a big reduction in nimbleness.
Bottom Line (For Now) / Who’s It For?
While we initially had no plans of reviewing it, I have found the new 177 Mantra to be an excellent ski, and one I can easily recommend. I’ve found the new 184 Mantra, so far, to be a confusing ski.
I’ve been holding off for a while now on drawing this generalization, but I don’t think my claim about the 13/14 Mantra— that it gets better the worse conditions get—still holds true for the 14/15 Mantra. The 177 is a very good ski, but it’s a different ski, with different strengths and weaknesses.
Having said that, I believe that many skiers will prefer the 14/15 177 Mantra over the 13/14 Mantra on groomers and in moguls, and virtually everyone will prefer the new 177 or 184 as the snow starts to get deep.
Update: 2014-2015 Volkl Mantra, 184cm
I’ve put some more time this spring on the new 184cm Mantra, and wanted to update. This was in full-on spring conditions—from pretty soft and nice, to slushy and (by the afternoon) sticky and grabby. Also, I wasn’t skiing in very demanding terrain, but rather wide-open groomers, pretty uniform bump lines (e.g., Copper Mountain’s Mine Dump) and terrain that was a bit like a lower-angle version of Taos’ Reforma (e.g., Copper’s Hallelujah).
On those wide-open groomers, the 184 Mantras did just fine. They weren’t as quick and snappy as the 177s, but in soft snow, they exhibited good edge hold at high speeds. But as those groomers got roughed up late in the day, the 13/14 Mantra provides a much smoother, more stable ride at very high speeds. And the more that top-end-capability matters to you, the less certain I am that you will love the new Mantra. (And the less you care about flat-out-performance-at-speed, the more confident I am that you will prefer the new Mantra to the old one—and my sizing recommendations above still stand.)
On lower angle, uniform bump lines, I really enjoyed skiing the 184 Mantras. I can’t say that I clearly preferred the 184s to the 177s—those 177s are still a very nice blend of stability and quickness—but I could happily ski the 184s all day long.
As I said, Copper’s Hallelujah reminds me a little bit of Taos’ Reforma, and in nice spring conditions, the 184s worked great. They were quick enough to negotiate the bumps at speed, but also stable enough to hammer through those bumps at speed.
In short, the main point of this update is to say that in less demanding conditions (softer snow, lower-angled terrain, a bit more uniform bump lines) I liked the 184 Mantra quite a bit, and I imagine many others will, too. But honestly, I didn’t notice a big bump up in stability over the 177s. So, if I had to right now choose either the 177 or the 184? I think the answer really depends on (#1) where you ski, and (#2) if you’re going to use this ski on deep pow days.
If the answer to #2 is “Yes,” then I’d be inclined to go with the longer ski / more surface area. And if the answer to #2 is Yes, and you happen to ski at a lower-angle mountain with uniform bump lines, then I’d be less inclined to go short.
But in big, firm bumps at speed, and on consistent groomers, those 177s were a whole lot of fun. So if I wasn’t going to be skiing the Mantra on days with more than 6 inches of fresh snow, I’d be tempted to stick with the 177s.
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