There are a few ski models that might be more important to a brand than the brand itself; one of those is the Völkl Mantra. Not much can be said about the importance of the Mantra’s place in history that has not already been said, but we will try anyway. Since the turn of the century (and since its evolution from the Explosiv), the Mantra not only created a segment but has commanded the respect as arguably one of the most important skis ever produced.
The [Mantra and Aura] defined a generation. They were the King and Queen, Mother and Father, Adam and Eve of an entire generation of skis, and no “Best of” list is complete without them.
—Author, Best Skis of the Decade
Over the years, I have had a tumultuous relationship with the Mantra. I found the early generations to be very good skis, but as they evolved over the years, I personally didn’t always agree with the direction. I knew who the ski was designed for, and in most cases, it wasn't me. The most recent generation, the M5 Mantra, was a ski that I just didn’t meld with; to fall back on the beat-up adage, “It’s not you, it’s me." Something was missing in my relationship with the M5 Mantra, and after skiing its narrower and wider siblings, I figured it out: it was Völkl’s 3D Radius sidecut, a design integrated into all of Völkl's recreational ski collections but not the Mantra -- until now, in the new M6 Mantra.
Völkl's 3D sidecut incorporates a tighter turn radius underfoot and a longer radius in the tip and tail. For example, in the reference 177cm length, the Mantra’s published radii are 29.8/17.5/24.3. The 17.5m radius underfoot allows the ski to feel quick, and the longer tip and tail radii make the ski not feel nervous. The two other significant “Tailored” advancements in the M6 that advance my enjoyment are explained here (from Völkl's press release):
Tailored Technologies by Völkl
An improvement over the proven Titanal frame construction from their predecessors, the M6 Mantra and Secret 96 feature Völkl’s new Tailored Titanal Frame. In contrast to the original design, the width of the top layer of the Tailored Titanal Frames varies depending on the length of the ski. The tailored sections consist of 0.7mm thick Titanal frames above the sidewalls in the tip and tail areas. With this construction, the amount of Titanal, and its corresponding damping and torsional flex, is tailored to the skier’s height and weight via the length of the ski -- in the longer lengths there is more metal, increasing torsional stiffness, power transmission, and damping for larger, heavier skiers.
The shorter the length, less Titanal is used, making the ski softer and more maneuverable so smaller and lighter skiers can take full advantage of the added performance. In the binding area, a thinner Titanal section with a thickness of only 0.3 mm creates enough integrity for binding retention while allowing a softer flex in the mid-body. The result is a truly incredible blend of stability and liveliness.
Tailored Titanal Frame in the M6 Mantra and the Secret 96
The new Tailored Carbon Tip technology plays a central role in making the M6 Mantra and Secret 96 new benchmarks in all-mountain skiing. Unlike the carbon tips of past models, Tailored Carbon Tips feature custom-inlaid directional strands, rather than a uniform carbon sheet, to reinforce the torsional stiffness of the ski at the forward contact point. As a result, the shovel responds precisely and directly when entering the turn, supporting a quick, reliable reaction from the ski, especially on hard snow. As the skier moves through the turn, the torsional stiffness of the forebody of the ski immediately transitions to a softer flex, ensuring a smooth flow through the turn and an incredibly playful ride quality. The M6 and Secret 96 deliver the widest bandwidth of any models in our All Mountain Freeride series – forgiving on one end and offering all-out performance at the other. What better combination to allow the most skiers access to the latest in all-mountain freeride enjoyment.
@Tricia's take: The M6 Mantra’s sister, the all-new Secret 96, steps up from the outgoing 92mm version and is more of a spiritual replacement for the beloved Aura. Incorporating all of the construction and design elements of the M6 Mantra, the Secret 96 is no shrink-it-and-pink-it wallflower.
Quite often, when you hear about new ski technology, it makes you wonder if it's just new lingo or actually the secret sauce to make a ski better. The Tailored Titanal Frame is intended to give the ski a smooth yet solid torsional flex that delivers reliable tip initiation. Combined with the Tailored Carbon Tip, this lightweight ski exudes nimble performance while responding like a full metal ski. The "tailored" aspect is the scaling of both the Titanal Frame and Carbon Tip to the size of the ski, offering a consistent experience for different sizes of skiers. @Philpug explained how the 3D sidecut has improved the M6, and I couldn’t agree more; it has had the same effect on the Secret 96. Just as the men's Mantra is now available in a 163, the Secret can be found in a 149. Perhaps the Tailored construction is the Secret’s secret sauce.