The Volkl Mantra is another ski that has gotten a lot of good press over the years, but the design was changed in 2014. I think some people were a little worried about the changes in performance after the design change, but after spending some time on this ski last season, I felt it was still a pretty great all-mountain ski that has the versatility to take you into the powder and back to the groomers anytime you’re on the mountain. I think some folks will complain that it’s not stiff enough anymore, but not everyone wants a beast of a ski. The NEw Mantra felt more manageable, while still being a hard charging ski that likes to go fast. The 2015 was also better in the powder, and quicker in the moguls and trees. I found the changes to be welcome, and I really enjoyed my time on the new 2015 Mantra. Now the Mantra is back for 2016, and this time it stays unchanged. If you liked the feel of the 2015, you’ll be glad that the same “new” Mantra is back.
Conditions: Hard Pack, Groomers, Soft Snow (5”), Crud, bumps
Boots: Rossignol Alias Sensor 120
Bindings: Marker Griffon
On the Snow Feel: The new Volkl Mantra is fully rockered (vs rocker/camber), giving this ski a bit more playful feel. While on edge, the Volkl Mantra has very good edge hold and stability, but while flat the ski can feel “surfy”. I would still say that overall the Mantra is a very stable ski, but the new Mantra is more playful than the old.
Powder: Although the old Volkl Mantra was one of the most versatile all-mountain skis, one of the biggest knocks was that it didn’t have the float of a bigger powder ski. This year Volkl decided to add 2mm to the waist width, making it 100mm underfoot instead of 98mm. Although this will help a bit with floatation, the biggest change has to be the full rocker profile Volkl gave the Mantra last season. The rocker in tip and tail helps to increase floatation, while the tapered design allows for better maneuverability and easier turn initiation in the deep snow. While the Mantra is still not a powder specialist, it has improved powder capabilities that put it right on par with the best all-mountain skis in this width.
Turn Initiation and Carving: The Volkl Mantra changed from a traditional camber ski in the old model to one that is fully rockered. The rocker in the tip and tail are both very gradual, but like most fully rockered skis, the Mantra is much quicker to turn than a ski with more traditional camber. Combined with a tapered tip and tail, the Mantra is easier to turn, especially at slower speeds. At 100mm underfoot it was easy enough to get on edge. Once there, I was surprised at how well the ski carved. Without camber underneath I expected less power, but Volkl made the tip and tail stiffer and made it softer underfoot. This allows the ski to bend more in the mid-body and really flex into the turns. When you come out of the turn the ski has quite a bit of pop, and the tapered tail gives you stability, making it easy to transition into your next turn.
Speed: The old Volkl Mantra was a ski that really liked speed. It was a stiff ski that seemed to come alive the faster you skied it. The new Mantra is a little bit more forgiving (It’s still not an easy going ski) but still really likes the speed. The ski is made with Volkl’s Tough Box Construction. This puts fiberglass over the top the wood core increasing the strength of the ski, while remaining snappy. The ski also has a titanal layer that helps to decrease vibration, and increase stability and edge hold.
Uneven Terrain: The Volkl Mantra now has a full rocker profile. This helps to keep you on top of the crud especially at higher speeds. The metal in the core helps to keep the ski stiff, and allows you ski through the crud without too much bounce.
Edge Hold: Changing from the traditional camber to full rocker made me wonder if the 2015 and 2016 would perform as well on groomers as the 2014, but Volkl’s Extended Low Profile (ELP) matches the flex and sidecut with the full rocker. This means that when you put the ski on edge, the tip and tail will engage, and the more pressure you put on the ski, the greater your effective edge will be. I found that as soon as you rolled the ski on edge it began to turn, and the more aggressively I skied it, and the more pressure I put on the edges, the better the edge hold got. I did find it took a little bit of time to find the sweet spot, but once I did I never felt like it was too loose or unstable.
Flex: Volkl changed the flex pattern of the Mantra in 2015. It has a stiff tip and tail and softer mid-body. This is still the same for the 2016 season.
Switch: The Volkl Mantra is a directional twin. You can ride switch, but its happier going forward.
Jumps: The Volkl Mantra is happy in the soft snow. If you find some great features in the deep snow, the Mantra is fun to jump, but as the conditions deteriorate, the Mantra becomes less of a jump ski.
Park: Not the best park ski here. The Mantra is happier on the rest of the mountain.
I think a lot of people will be surprised by the changes Volkl made to the Mantra last season. The biggest change was going to a full rocker ski. Volkl has done this with most of their freestyle line-up, so it was only a matter of time before it happened to the Mantra. I know that the RTM series has gone back to camber underfoot, but the Mantra remains full reverse camber. I actually really loved the feel of the full rocker RTM, and likewise with the Mantra. Others may find it a bit too loose, and more difficult to find the sweet spot. The new rocker profile does allow for better flotation in the powder, especially when combined with the 2mm added to the waist. At 100mm, you’re still not getting a powder specialist, but the Mantra will be capable in all but the deepest snow. Even with the changes the new Volkl Mantra still remains as good on the groomers as the old Volkl Mantra. The tapered design in the tip and tail help to reduce swing weight and increase quickness when turning. As you roll the ski on edge, the tip and tail engage, giving you increased stability and edge hold, and the unique flex pattern gives you power not normally found in a fully rockered ski. The Volkl Mantra is a ski that likes to be pushed, and the more aggressive you ski it, the more it responds. This is not a ski for beginners, but heavier, intermediate to expert skiers will find it a great versatile ski for everyday on the mountain.