Sam Shaheen’s Initial On-Snow Review — Sölden, Austria
While we will, of course, be spending a lot more time on this ski, I got a bit of time on the 177 cm Mantra M5 at Sölden, Austria. I skied a combination of excellently-prepared groomers with firm, biteable snow, and off piste, there were about 8 inches of heavily tracked-up snow leftover from a recent storm.
So I’ll offer my brief, initial impressions here, but we’ll save comparisons between the Mantra M5, the current (M4) Mantra, and to the direct competitors of this ski till we can A/B them on snow.
The first thing that stood out to me was actually the tune; the skis were extremely sharp — as in, samurai-sword sharp.
When a ski is this well tuned, especially when skiing on firm groomers, it is sometimes difficult to separate the feel of the tune from the feel of the ski. Especially for off-piste skiing, I would want to detune the tips and tails. But for the on-piste conditions we had, the tune felt great.
Bracketing the tune of the M5 for a minute, I can say that the Mantra felt very intuitive. It was easy to initiate a turn, and the camber underfoot provided a good amount of rebound out of the turn. All I had to do is gain some speed, then lean over. The ski did the rest.
The M5 felt very directional, and because of that, it felt good when driving hard through the front of my boots. But the 177 cm M5 felt best to me when I skied from a slightly neutral stance. If I drove the ski too hard, I found that I could overpower it. The softened-up platform underfoot, (which, as you’ll hear more about in our podcast conversation, is touted by Volkl to make the ski more approachable with easier turn initiation), also seems to limit a bit the sheer power of the M5 — this is not a GS ski. But that said, get into the backseat, and the M5 will still protest.
So all that is to say that the new Mantra M5 feels approachable, but it definitely does not feel like a beginner’s ski. “Easy” and “precise” aren’t words that always go hand in hand when talking about skis, yet that’s how I would describe the Mantra M5 (on groomers, at least).
The Mantra M5 also feels much happier on edge than going straight. The 177’s have a 19.8 m sidecut radius, and at least on my feet, they certainly liked to make medium-radius turns. I could coax the ski into making tighter or bigger turns, but the Mantra M5 felt most at home when bending into its sidecut radius (as opposed to going much larger or tighter). This was also likely affected by the sharp tune; with a bit of detune, we might see different turn preferences from the M5.
Perhaps in keeping with previous versions of the Mantra, I didn’t find the M5 to be particularly quick edge to edge; it is possible to make quick turns, it just takes a touch more effort. For me, the M5 liked to get into that ~ 20 m bend, ride it out, then slingshot me into the next turn.
Even though the ski has been softened underfoot in comparison to previous versions, the tips and tails of the M5 are still pretty stiff, and the Mantra M5 has a pretty decent top end. When making mid-sized turns, I never exceeded the speed limit of the ski. But when making longer turns or running bases flat on piste, I could. I think that part of this was due to the skis getting squirrely because of its tighter sidecut, and part of the speed limit is just due to the M5’s construction and flex pattern. And I think the 184’s would be much more comfortable bombing straight down steep groomers than the 177’s.
As I noted above, the Mantra M5 I skied felt perfectly tuned for precisely-carved turns on corduroy, which is not exactly the sort of tune that I would typically pick for skiing 8 inches of tracked-up and variable snow. So we’ll be saying a lot more about the Mantra M5’s off-piste performance in the coming weeks.
And given its particular tune, it isn’t surprising that the M5 I skied had a very locked-in feel in heavier untracked and variable snow. The ski didn’t want to slash or slarve high speed turns, it still wanted to carve through the variable conditions and deeper chop I was skiing. (And while we’ll wait to say anything definitive until we ski them back to back, I feel pretty safe in saying that the current, fully-rockered Mantra would feel looser in these conditions.)
That said, I think that in firm, wind-scoured or skied-out snow, the Mantra M5 is going to grip well and have enough damping and power to perform well in these conditions. We’ll definitely get them out in firmer and steeper conditions this season, and will be reporting back in our full review.
Bottom Line (For Now)
A lot of skiers out there will be excited to hear that the 18/19 Volkl Mantra M5 and Secret are incorporating once again traditional camber underfoot, and many of those folks may also be glad to hear that the the skis are more piste-oriented than their predecessors.
We look forward to putting the new M5 up against the 17/18 Mantra, the Blizzard Bonafide, the Nordica Enforcer 100 & Enforcer 93, the HEAD Kore 93, etc, and we also look forward to getting a lot more time on the Mantra M5 around the entire mountain — in moguls, steeps, and trees — to learn more about its all-mountain performance and preferences.
NEXT: Update from Telluride by Jonathan Ellsworth