Ski: 2016-2017 Volkl Mantra, 177cm
Actual Tip-to-Tail Length (straight tape pull): 177.8cm
Blister’s Measured Dimensions (mm): 131-100-119
Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 2078 grams & 2092 grams
Mount Location: “0” Line
Boots / Bindings: Salomon X Pro 120 / Marker Jester (DIN 11)
Days Skied: 4
Ski: 2016-2017 Volkl Mantra, 184cm
Actual Tip to Tail Length (straight tape pull): 182.8cm
Blister’s Measured Dimensions (mm): 131.5-99.5-117.8
Blister’s Measured Weight per Ski: 2145 and 2165 grams
Stated Sidecut Radius: 25.4 m
Core Construction: Poplar/Ash + Titanal + Fiberglass Laminate
Tip & Tail Splay (ski decambered): 59 / 14 mm
Traditional Camber Underfoot: 0 mm
Recommended Line (“0” Line): ~82.3cm from tail; ~9.1cm behind center
Mount Location: not yet settled, leaning toward “0”
Boots / Bindings: Salomon X Pro 120 / Marker Jester (DIN 11)
Days Skied: 12
Test Location: Taos Ski Valley; Summit County, CO[Editor’s Note: Our review was conducted on the 14/15 Mantra, which was not changed for 15/16 or 16/17, except for the graphics.]
“Is that the new Mantra? Is it better?”
Over the past four weeks at Taos, this is probably the question I’ve been asked the most—and with good reason. The Mantra is an iconic ski, and Volkl made the decision to do a full switch-up. (You can check out my Preview of the new Mantra for more background.)
And if you’ve read my review of the 13/14 Mantra, you’ll know that piece was also an argument for why I hoped Volkl wouldn’t change the Mantra at all. While the 13/14 Mantra isn’t phenomenal at everything (no ski is), I have found it to be one of the best all-mountain skis I’ve ever ridden for dealing with difficult, firm and variable conditions in steep and tricky terrain.
The new Mantra?
Before our pair of new 184cm Mantras arrived, my friend Pete Rogers who works at Alpine Sports in Santa Fe, NM, asked me to take out a pair of the new 177s to see what I thought. I declined. I ski the 184cm Mantra, and have never felt like I wanted less ski; I’d just wait for the new 184. But Pete insisted, and I finally agreed to take the skis to Taos…
My first run on the 177s was down Totemoff’s, and at the bottom of the run, just before hitting the catwalk to get back to chair 7, I admit that I let out a loud, Wooooooooooooo! The new 177 is easier to bend and work across the fall line than the 184cm 13/14 Mantra, felt super smooth and eager to set high-angle carves, and when A/B-ed against the 184cm 13/14 Mantra with traditional camber, provided as good if not better edgehold. The new 177 Mantra reminded me of a more damp, more substantial version of the Rossignol Scimitar.
While I still like the 13/14 Mantra on groomers, and would opt for it the more roughed up those groomers get, the new 177s are more fun all-around, are easy to engage, and come to life at lower speeds than the 13/14 184cm Mantra, but don’t fall apart at high speeds.
The 14/15 177s are far easier and less demanding in moguls than the 13/14 184cm Mantra. I happen to like the 13/14 Mantra in bumps, but it is a pretty stiff ski that can kick your ass in big moguls if you aren’t a proficient bump skier. Like most skis built with full rocker and no traditional camber, the new Mantra is easy to pivot around at slower speeds, while the 13/14 Mantra needs to be brought up to speed before becoming compliant, and in my experience, becomes increasingly impressive the harder you push them or the more firm those bumps are.
Still, there are easier bump skis out there, like the 180cm Blizzard Bonafide, and I think the new 177 Mantra closes the gap on the 180 Bonafide.
In my review of the 13/14 Mantra, I have a section entitled, “This Is Not a Pow Ski.” But the 14/15 Mantra has definitely improved in this area. Given the slight increase in width, the slightly softer shovels and tails, and—most importantly—the absence of traditional camber + the addition of subtle tail rocker, and the new Mantra has been tweaked to work better in deeper snow.
I mean, the Mantra is still only 100mm-underfoot and it is still a pretty stiff ski, so I am willing to wager that you’ll still get better flotation out of the softer-flexing, 98mm-underfoot Volkl Bridge, or pretty much any fatter, tip-and-tail rockered ski on the market.
(By the way, I hate this review so far. It sounds like I’m bashing the 13/14 Mantra, yet the past few weeks have underscored all over again how much I still love that ski. I feel like I’m speaking at the funeral of one of my best friends, and I’m pointing out all of the things he wasn’t great at.)
Variable, Tracked Out Pow
This is where the 13/14 Mantra keeps its advantage: skiing hard and fast in tracked up powder. The new Mantra might be a little more prone to deflection, but frankly, unless you are skiing very fast and making very big turns, the difference is fairly negligible.
The Reforma Test
I wrote something very similar in my review of the Volkl V-Werks Katana, but I was definitely surprised by how hard I was able to push the 177 Mantra down Reforma (big, steep bumps at the top; a fast, more open middle section; then a couple big bumps again to negotiate before straight lining out a more-or-less moguled-up bottom section).
Once again, the 177s are more accessible and less demanding than the 13/14 Mantras, yet they can still be pushed hard and fast.
The clearest advantage the 13/14 Mantra has over the new Mantra is when straightlining the bumped-up run out of Reforma. In such instances, the lack of traditional camber makes the ski wash-y if you happen to get bases flat. In this case, I definitely preferred the less tapered tip + slightly stiffer shovel + traditional camber of the 13/14 Mantra. (Have I mentioned that the 13/14 Mantra is optimized to be pushed very hard, and that it is very, very good at this?)
I had to return the 177 Mantra before I had a chance to ski it in really tough conditions down Reforma—Taos was skiing too well—so I can’t speak directly to how the 177s fare in really difficult conditions. But I’ll pick this topic up again in a bit.