From Dawgcatching's 2011 Ski Reviews: Mid-Fat skis, 80-100mm Waists, 11/28/10
Volkl Mantra: Not changed for 2011, 96mm underfoot, lengths tested 170 and 177cm. Designed to be a wider all-mountain ski, more of a Western wide 1-ski quiver than a wider zippy groomer ski.
These were tested over several days: conditions included lots of manmade snow, firm and rock-hard bumps, fast groomers, a few inches of new snow, steeps, icy chutes, some heavy new snow, and a fair amount of crud. Since I only got a couple of runs on these skis, for the most part, I didn't do the 1-10 scale for these skis.
5 foot 9, 155lbs, competent all-mountain skier, and could zipper-line double-black bumps for the first time in my life by early spring. Probably ski 40-50 days per year. I tend to enjoy big open, high speed bowls, bumps, trees, fast groomers. My skiing speed is fast to full-on. Overall fitness is high, as I am on my road bike 15+ hours a week 9 months of the year, and race pro-level races as a Cat1.
I haven't been on this in 3 years, but it doesn't feel to have changed much, if at all. Why mess with something that works and sells well? The Mantra is relatively conventional in approach, and has the reputation of a very solid and powerful ski. I tried 2 lengths, both 170cm and 177cm, in the same crappy snow that I was skiing in for the Volkl tests. 170cm: a really fun ski, very lively, quite nimble. It will charge and have a good amount of stability, but it does pretty well in bumps, is a very manageable length, and I could see this being a great ski for days back East where there is quite a bit of new snow, but not a lot of terrain to allow a big ski to run in. On groomers, this thing held like glue, and was very aggressive for such a wide ski. It has a lot of metal in it. I did notice it was a bit stiff, and bounced around a lot in crud. It doesn't have the terrain-smothering feel of the Elan Spire or Kastle MX98; the Mantra feels stiffer than either of those, sort of like a Stockli XXXL, which really has no speed limit and is a freakin' cruise missile, but a bit more of a handful. The Mantra is in that same boat. Downsides: not many, but I could see this being too much ski for people my weight if they aren't really skiing at a high level. Also, 170cm is a bit short when you get into deeper snow. I would personally want something a bit longer for those conditions. Overall, though I was impressed. I would say it compared well to some of the beefier mid-fats I have skied. This would be a great “wide” ski for those who ski on smaller hills, or in tight trees, and need something wider, but not necessarily long.
177cm: a completely different beast. This ski was less maneuverable, less manageable, and more of a bruiser. It really came across similar to the Atlas, which is a big-time power ski. The “fun” was really gone out of the ski: instead, it meant business. This still held like glue on the icier steeps (there are several short, yet steep no-fall pitches at Mission Ridge, and they were slippery and a bit dicey) but this ski slows down considerably, and can also punish you for backseat driving. It isn't “forgiving”, but give it accurate input, and it is a no-compromises all-mountain machine. At my weight, I found it too stiff: it was a bit of work to get it to relax out of the end of the turn, tough to pilot in bumps and tight spaces, and not as smooth as I would like. It was lacking a bit of energy that I can get from my favorite all-mountain rides (such as the MX88 and Apex) and was just a little too much work. Much of that has to do with my light weight: bigger guys love this ski. Overall, no complaints. FWIW, the new Kendo is a bit softer, and if they made the Mantra to match the flex of the Kendo (I know they are the same layup, but more ski=stiffer in execution), they would have as good of a wide mid-fat that exists, IMO.
Overall, the 170cm was really fun (I wouldn't buy it due to the short length, though) and the 177cm was a bit too stiff and planky in feel.
Pros: as stable as any ski, very quick in the shorter length, a real powerhouse
Cons: planky feel in the longer ski, a bit bouncy in crud, not very quick, pretty demanding