Which one? That is the question I have to ask whenever someone inquires about a Mantra, the new M5 in particular. "I owned" "My buddy owned" "I read about" ... the Mantra. I always have to answer, "Which one?" The reply is usually, “What do you mean, 'Which one?'"
There have been several different Mantras over the years. Things started off in the mid-2000s at 94 mm underfoot with a really nice, balanced flex. As the years passed, the Mantra became wider and stiffer up until 98 mm. Völkl then added a bit of tip rocker and eventually decided the ski didn't need camber. By the time it reached 100 mm underfoot, it was a zero-camber ski. Throughout this evolution-turned-revolution, many people bought the ski on reputation and ended up with a ski that wasn't what they expected. This is one of the pitfalls of keeping a name around too long. We see it in the auto industry, as well: a good example is the Nissan Maxima, which turned from a four-door sports car (remember 4DSC?) into a luxury vehicle.
The M5 is a ski that Völkl is using in an attempt to reclaim the Mantra’s youth. It slimmed back down to 96 mm, and became cambered again. The M5 prefix is to show that the newest incarnation is the fifth generation in the series; could it be a stepping stone to renaming the line? IMHO, the Mantra name will be phased out and it will simply be called the M5.
So, if you had a Mantra in the past, will you like the new one? I will ask again, Which One did you have? If it was a 94mm or 96mm version from pre-2010, I think you will like the new M5. If it was the 98mm version with full camber or even the one with a bit of rocker, probably not. If you liked the more recent 100mm zero-camber incarnation, maybe. The new M5 presents a bit of a dichotomy for Völkl. It is a very important ski for the company, a ski that needs to be successful -- but not necessarily in its first year, rather in its second or third year of production. The first year, the sales will be based on, right or wrong, a well-earned loyal following. The proof will be in the pudding as the years roll on. Will the aura (yes, I went there) of the Mantra continue, or will even the most loyal of Völkl zealots realize that they might have to look elsewhere?
- Why choose the Mantra M5? You bleed Völkl. Nothing wrong with that, it is a very good ski, but even the Mantra loyalist should consider demoing first.
- Why look elsewhere? The new M5 is not the raw powerhouse you might be expecting.
- Insider tip: The M5 is more refined and versatile than any Mantra in the past. It is as tenacious on firm snow as any of the earlier generations and, other than the 100mm version, better in the soft. This is the best balanced Mantra ever -- no matter what they call it.