Volkl Mantra Review
Cons: Stiff, unforgiving
Our Analysis and Test Results
Hands-On Review of the Mantra
From the icy slopes of the East Coast to the champagne powder of Utah to the bluebird days in the Sierra with 3 foot of fresh overnight, and literally every mountain with any snow condition in between, this ski is a man among men. For those of you old school skiers still scared away by the Mantra's (relatively) new fully rockered profile, come join the dark side…it's not so bad over here! This is not the insane banana-rocker you see on some skis in the lift line (IE Surface, Armada, etc.).
The rocker profile on the Mantra is ever so slight, and to the naked eye looks to be almost non-existent. Where you will notice the minimal rocker profile is when the ski is on your feet making it easier to float in the powder, easier to transition from edge to edge between turns, and easier to make those quick turns when scrubbing speed or bouncing your way through the bumps.
Skiers unfamiliar with the Mantra may also be wary of its 100mm waist and the wide turn radius (25.4m listed for the 184cm length), but fear not, the power of this ski can be tamed and harnessed for a full day of fun at your home mountain. Although the Mantra does not tolerate lazy skiers, it rewards aggressive skiers tenfold. It turns out that the 100mm waist, once considered to be "fat", is the ideal width for slaying both powder and groomers on the same day. And despite having a much larger turn radius than say, the DPS Foundation Cassiar 95, the full design of the ski allows the skier to slarve and make short radius turns easily. The 2017/2018 Mantra went toe-to-toe with every ski in the men's all-mountain category and won a handful of the performance comparisons.
Stability at Speed
The Mantra WANTS to go fast, just like a few other skis we tested - see the Nordica Enforcer 93. Its large turn radius (especially for the all-mountain category) lends itself to making huge high speed turns. One might expect that the fully rockered profile would inhibit the ski's ability to feel stable at high speeds, but as you lay the ski over and engage more and more of the skis edge, the chatter seen in other skis with full rocker disappears.
The multi-layer wood core contributes to the ski feeling damp, while the titanal layer diminishes any noticeable chatter. It has supreme edge hold, and all of our testers felt confident in the predictability of this ski in icy firm conditions like we found with the Nordica Enforcer 93, as well as soft snow, like the Blizzard Rustler 10. Feel free to go as fast as you feel comfortable with, as the Mantra will keep up with you. Just be careful, you'll feel so confident going fast on these skis that you may be going faster than you think!
A fully rockered ski should not carve like this, but believe us…it does. The effective edge of this ski is not compromised by its rocker profile in very similar style to the Black Crows Daemon, and the ski may even feel like it skis a bit longer than listed. Its shape and turn radius lend itself well to railing tremendous high speed turns on wide open groomed terrain, but the ski can also be controlled and directed into shorter and quicker turns easily.
Some of our reviewers found the Mantra harder to get on edge than other skis in this category (see the DPS Cassiar 95 or Dynastar Legend X 96) due in part to its slightly larger waist. It does seem as though the Mantra is slightly slower edge to edge than other skis reviewed, but this should not deter you from feeling confident rolling the ski over again and again and again…
This is THE crud busting ski. It is the only ski to receive a 9 out of 10 in our crud category, and rightfully so. The only condition that this ski could not handle was not even something we would consider skiing (i.e., frozen, icy, unforgiving, chicken head riddled, steep bumps). The Mantra can float above and through chopped up chunder due to its width, but unlike the Rossignol Soul 7 HD, the rockered tip feels solid and can bust through crud without so much as a whimper.
Its mid-fat waist helps in soft or slushier crud, and in conditions that would usually grab one ski and send it in a different direction than your other (looking at you, Line Sick Day 95, the Mantras (both of them) stayed true, due in part to their responsiveness and ease of turning. Quite a few of our testers are professional ski patrollers, and some preferred these skis because of their ability to handle horrible conditions that patrollers find themselves having to ski often.
Despite not winning this category, the Mantra has quite a few advantages when it comes to its performance in the powder.
First of all, it is fully rockered. The rocker in the front of the ski allows it to float to the top, while the rocker in the back allows you to release out of your turn easily. Second, is the skis width and sidecut. At 133mm in the tip, it is relatively similar to the Daemon's shovel, and provide a decent amount of float. While the Dynastar Legend x 96 delivers a similar ability to stay on top, it doesn't have the consistency and power our testers felt while on the Mantra.
Unless you ski exclusively in Hokkaido, Japan, we found the Mantra capable of handling all powder conditions well with the exception being the deepest of days, where you may want to bring out your true powder skis (think 110mm+ waist).
This is the one category in the review that the Mantra left something to be desired. As to be expected with a ski that scores so high in carving, speed, and crud categories, it a bit heavy and can seem a little stiff, especially compared to a model like the Icelantic Pioneer 96 or the Moment PB&J.
Our testers found the ski to be very unforgiving, especially on landings off drops and jumps. Once you get backseat on the Matras, it is difficult to get back forward. That being said, the rocker found allows it to be responsive and easy to turn, and what is sacrificed in playfulness, is made up in other categories.
The Mantra gave our testers a bit of a challenge the bumps. The Mantras, which feel a bit long a stiff were far less fun than the Rustlers or Daemons when we took them to our favorite moguls. Despite that, the full rocker does allow this ski to be easy to turn, and that may have been its saving grace.
It scored near the bottom of all the skis in this category, but for different reasons than the Sick Days and the Soul 7s. Although bumps may not be the Mantras forte, they can be managed in the moguls.
This is a skier's ski. It has a can-do attitude, and if you stay on top of them, you're guaranteed to have fun all over the mountain on any given day. Its best application is whatever condition and terrain type you are on at that given moment. Our testers were thrilled to be on this ski, even in the nastiest of conditions. If you're on the Mantra's, you should feel confident that this ski can handle anything you throw at it as long as you're willing to tame the beast.
The price of this ski is comparable to most others in the all-mountain category. If you're looking for a burly one-ski quiver and love to go fast, this is the ski for you.
The Volkl Mantra is one of our favorite men's all-mountain ski if you couldn't tell by all the raving above. It is an aggressive ski and not the right fit for a true beginner and may take some time on them to get used to the power under your feet. Once harnessed, that energy can be explosive and generate endless whoops and smiles.
Testers love it for its crud busting, reliability, consistency throughout all types of snow conditions. Some testers did feel more comfortable with a shorter ski than the 184 (see the Volkl Mantra 177) due to the ski's burly nature, but we cannot recommend this line of skis enough, and encourage you to get on a pair as soon as possible!
— Andrew Pierce