The big three 98/100mm skis for 2015 got some significant on snow time here at A-Basin this past week. In the comparison was the Blizzard Bonafide, while a carry over in design from last season it does support N.G.T. (New Graphic Technology) for this year, the all new Nordica NRGy100 which replaced the outgoing Hell & Back/Enforcer design and the revolutionary (not evolutionary) Volkl Mantra that is now 100mm under foot. Unfortunately, I was not able to secure the all new Rossignol Experience 100 nor the Line Supernatural 100 for the test (see the snippets below)
The testing conditions were pretty consistent over the days I was skiing the three skis. A mix of firm refrozen snow in the AM to corn in the afternoon. In between these typical spring conditions were some nice wind buff along with some boot deep snow. Sizes of the skis were pretty comparable with the Bonafide in at 180, The NRGy 177 (but more like a 181) and the Mantra measuring in at a true to length 177. Bindings were also consistent with Salomon Sth2 13’s on the Blizzard and the Nordica and the Volkl having a Marker Griffon demo, which skis more like a regular binding than a typical demo rig. Tunes were also consistent with a 1*/2* from Start Haus.
For the past three seasons the Bonafide (133/98/118) has been my reference ski in this category, with it’s early rise in the tip and tail along with camber underfoot and a balanced flex has catapulted the Bonafide to the top of the class. Some have felt the Bonafide has been too demanding and for those, these two contenders will give you some viable options. The Bonafide’s N.G.T. for 2015 is the biggest change this ski has seen since it’s introduction thee seasons ago. IMHO it is the best looking Bonafide yet, the matte textured finish is very simple and rich. If there was a reason to upgrade a ski because of just graphics, this is the time.
The Nordica NRGy100 (136/100/120) is a welcome addition to one of the most contested segments of skis in the market. If there was one word to describe the NRGy it is “compliant”, Nordica has designed a ski for those who felt the Bonafide was too much of a ski. The NRGy is not less of a ski than the Bone but it does have a bigger performance window that is more obtainable for the majority of the skiers. The NRGy is NOT the Hell & Back, it is closer in balanced flex of the Enforcer but with more of freeride shape with a relaxed sidecut. The NRGy was a great balance of the ease of the Mantra and the power of the Bonafide. What I liked when I skied the NRGy was the ease. Taking the Nordica down the West Wall off of the cornice or even through the trees in the Alleys, nothing bothered it, it was easy, compliant and playful and unlike the Bonafide it didn’t need to get up to speed, not that the Bone needs much. The shortcomings of the NRGy is with it’s gradual early rise in the tip, it does prefer to be skied off of the front of the boot to get the most out of it at higher speed and long radius turns but at those speeds it doesn’t have quite the confidence that the Bonafide has.
The reinvented Mantra (131/100/119) is coming late to the party in this comparison in that I have had the significant time, years, on the Bonafide and weeks on the NRGy. With this history, I wanted to make sure the Manta got a fair shake in this three way comparison so I skied the Mantra whenever I could. The outgoing Mantra was one of my least favorite skis in this category and I didn’t want to cloud my decisions of this all new ski. Up to this trip I did try to get out on the Mantra as much as I could, at Copper, I took it out twice on the firm conditions, I skied it again at Mammoth in typical windbuff and when we had the Epic Gathering at Alpine Meadows in some foot deep pow, I took it out twice again. So while my on snow time on the other two skis is more extensive, my time on this new Mantra is significantly more than any other 2015 ski that is not in my test fleet. With all that, I have really tried to like the new Mantra and quite frankly, the more I ski it, the more I like it..here is the caveat...in soft snow. If someone is looking for a soft snow biased, bordering on specific 100mm ski, the Mantra is great. The zero camber underfoot along with the slight early rise in the tip and tail make it a great ski for softer snow, in fact I skied it on our biggest day here and in Arapahoe Basin’s Montezuma bowl with thigh deep snow, it performed like a ski much bigger and while the other two skis would have sufficed, the Mantra was indeed the ski of choice for the conditions.
These three skis are the class of the segment but all have their pluses and minimal minuses. Even going on four seasons old, the Bonafide is not near showing it’s age and it proves that a good design is timeless. In the past three seasons many skies have tried to knock the Bonafide off of the top of the heap (yes, IMHO, the Bonafide has been very well best overall 98 offered) and these two skis come really close. The Mantra started off being a dichotomy for me but as I said, the more I skied it, the more I liked it but it does have a significant flaw and that is hard snow performance, the area that the Mantra excelled at in the past, a flaw that even the littlest bit of camber could cure. The new Mantra is an off piste superstar and who would have think that I would be using playful and Mantra in the same sentence. The NRGy100, for some, like the Mantra is an acquired taste, a taste that I immediately liked the first time I skied it and it hasn’t let me down. Out of these three skis, it has the best balance of performance, playfulness and all mountain versatility. Does that make it the best of the three? No, but a master of many things and for some a great option. The Bonafide is the most rewarding, the more I gave it, the more it said, thats cool and was not brash enough to say is that all you got? The Mantra wanted to go explore and was the most relaxed but would need a hard snow companion in a quiver.
It comes down to what YOU want and all three of these skis are more right than wrong.
Lest not forget the other newbies and some carry overs in this category....
Dynastar Cham 97- While the Cham name carries over this is really now the Cham High Mountain labeled as the Cham. This is a lighter version of the Cham and much more playful. It is a stiffer ski that feels very binary, either off or on.
Head Rev 98- A late addition to the Rev collection, softer and a more compliant ski closest to feel of the NRGy
Line SuperNatural 100- This is an all new ski that replaces the Prophet 98. A very good ski, very well the best Line has produced. Feels to be a cross between the NRGy and Bonafide.
Kastle MX98-A reintroduction of premium model in this segment. $1350.00 is a ton of money but the MX98 is a ton of ski. Quality does not come cheap
Rossignol Experience 98-This is another oft talked about new addition to the 2015 offerings and a ski that I would have really liked to have on this demo trip. I did ski the E100 at both Copper and Mammoth and found it a nice evolution from the outgoing 98mm version. The E100 is the most hard snow driven ski in this class almost to the point it could coexist next to the Mantra in a quiver.
Environment & Conditions:
Location of Test: Arapahoe Basin, Co
Number of Runs: 4 days worth
Snow Conditions: Everything except boilerplate
Demo or Own: Both
Height/Weight: 5'11" 190lb
Ski Days/Season: 60+
Years Skiing: 35+
Aggressiveness: Moderate (Finesse) to Power
-’14 Scott The Ski 175cm w/Look Pivot 15
-’14 Nordica Steadfast 178 w/Salomon Sth 14
-’14 K2 Rictor 90 178 w/Salomon Sth2 13
-’15 Nordica FireArrow 76 Ti 177
-’15 Blizzard Bonafide 180cm w/Salomon Sth2 13
-’15 Nordica NRGy 100 w/Salomon Sth2 13
-various vintage skis
Home Area: Squaw & Northstar
Preferred Terrain: bumps, off-piste, trees
Edited by Philpug - 5/15/14 at 11:59am