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Volkl Karma vs. AC4 vs. Mantra

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
I've been lurking here and at TGR for a while now and after hours and hours of searching I've narrowed my ski search down to a few skis, but can't make the final decision.

I usually just demo when I take trips, but this year; after moving to LA, I already have 10 days planned (5 in Jackson Hole, at least 2 in LCC, and at least 4 at Mammoth) and decided it made sense to buy a set of skis. I've decided I want to try and pick up a cheap/used pair to get me through maybe 2 seasons (maybe 30 days).

I've always liked Volkls when I've demo'd them, I think it has to do with the fact that I'm 6' 215lbs and they're generally pretty stiff skis. I'm not one for finess, I can really work a stiff ski. I'd say I'm a sold level 8-9 skier. I stay off the groomers any time it's possible, but I'm worried about going too fat. I really don't like a fat ski on a packed surface (bad luck the last 2 years taught me this) so the Mantra worries me a little, but still intrigues me. I love to ski the trees, and don't mind bumps, but would much prefer softer unbumped snow. I like to think I can ski just about anything, but try to avoid cliffs (thinking about learning how to do it right in Jackson Hole this year). I'd say I'm much more into technical lines than "big lines", but steep is my number one priortity.

I've also always enjoyed a nice shorter pair of skis, Skiing anything from 165-175 (I know WAY too short), but that's what I've really liked, after my teenage years using 205's. The skis I've seen on ebay, now are a pair of 170cm AC4's (maybe $300-475), 170 & 177 Mantra's ($500ish), and 169 Karma's (probably $300-500).

Anyway, my main question is, how do the Karma's compare to the AC4's? Which is stiffer? Will the added waist on the Karma make turning in tight situations much more difficult? How about hard pack performance Again, not that worried about stability at speed.

Finally, what about a Mantra compared to both of them. With a 94-96mm waist it seems like it'll be just too fat for everyday use (unless you ask TGR in which case it'll be too skinny).

Thanks in advance.
post #2 of 10
For your size, I would stick -w- Mantra no shorter than 177. I'm 5'11" 210 and skied 184 Mantra in LCC, Whistler, and east coast too. This year it's even stiffer, and slightly wider. Skis like a big GS ski on groomers, and rips in crud and pow. My quiver is Mantra 184, Katana 190, and AC4 177.
post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 
How would you compare your Mantra's to your AC4's? What do you think either does better or worse than the other?
post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 


Anyone else have any input?
post #5 of 10
This has been covered here before do a search.

I would recommend the AC4 for you in 177cm. I ski it in 170cm I'm 5'11" 195lbs. Not sure you have the skills to ski it in 170. I ski 65+ days a season.

The Karma I found to be to single minded in a weak sort of way compared to other more GS style skis I call single minded.

Mantra's might work for you because your mainly in the West.
post #6 of 10
5'11" currently about 189, though I will get down to 175.

I have owned the Karma and the Mantra, both in a 177cm.

I ultimately found that both skied short, though the Karma much shorter than the Mantra.

Both were ripping skis, though, and a little longer I would have kept them.

If you like a stiff ski may I recommend the AK King Salmon. You can score a brand new pair for under $500 here. http://www.akski-usa.com/products.html

This is the ski I replaced my Mantras with and couldn't be happier. They ski long for a 180, really solid on groomers and hardpack and just as decent in the fluff as the Mantra was.

BTW, at first glance the Mantra is kinda squeamish on the hardpack, but if you stay on 'em you can make 'em work (I managed to zing down Milk Run at Telluride last season on 'em and while it took focus, they gripped).
post #7 of 10
The Karma in a 169 and the Mantra in the 170 should not even be on your radar. The AC-4 is probably too short as well. It would be OK on smooth hard snow as you really don't need length for that. However, a short AC-4 would not be anywhere on the first page if I were choosing a ski for predominately off trail use.

That leaves you one choice from your original list.

post #8 of 10
I'm 6'2/215 and ski somewhat similarly as you described yourself. I think you would be misspending your money on the Mantra under 184. I ski the 184 as my everyday ski and never once have I thought I needed a shorter ski.

I've demoed the AC4 several times and ski with a guy who owns a pair. I think the Mantra and the AC4 are comparable in wide open runs as both are solid carvers for a a larger/powerful skier. The AC4 is more of a "true carver", but will not be nearly as stable or "fun" in the crud.

My experience (and my buddies) is that the AC4 gets catchy in the crud as it is always trying to lay the edge into the hardpack underneath.

The AC4 is far more front-side dedicated than the Mantra and will lose much of its fun factor as the snow gets deeper and cut up. The AC4 is a solid hard snow ski, but does not live up to what your are looking for.

You said, "I stay off groomers as much as possible" - I'd take the AC4 off your list and make a decision between the Mantra in 184 and the longest Karma available.

The Mantra is an awesome ski that fits your description in all aspects.
post #9 of 10
Thread Starter 


Thanks for all the feedback. I found a REALLY cheap used ac4 in a local shop( <325), so I think I'm going to pick that up, just to have for days when it hasn't snowed in a while (like my trip to Alta last year in mid Jan or on trips to local socal mts).

With that said, I think that the mantra is the way I'm going to go, but it seems like everyone is saying I should go 177+; that's bigger than I usually ski and also fatter so I'm going to demo them for a day or 2 and see what I think. My local shop demo's the mantra and will credit me back the money I spend to demo it if I buy it.

One thought that I can't seem to get out of my mind is, why was a ski with 82-86 under foot fat 2 years ago and now it's a carving ski? Is it just a fad to go bigger and fatter (I know, this has been covered in other threads) or is it that technology has allowed a 90+ mm under foot ski like the mantra to ski well on hard pack?

Anyway, thanks again for all the input, I really needed some encouragement to go bigger and fatter. Now we just need some snow and lifts turning.
post #10 of 10
SJ can better answer that, but honestly I have a 78mm, 86mm and 94mm in my "every day" quiver.

I use quotes as the 78mm's have been relegated to Spring skis (they're uber stiff and have a very small sweet spot).

I will be mounting some 86mm Titan 9's as my goto groomer. That's something you might consider in lieu of the Karma, btw. Great all arounder that grips well, is easy to work around medium sized bumps, and handles moon turf like a dream. I can say the same about the 94mm waisted King Salmons, as well.

I thought they'd be too wide at 94, but the way they're made is amazing. they handle like a slalom ski, to a degree (they're stiff and turn pretty easily).

I really think it's just that technology has caught up and you can have a wide ski that still performs to a degree like a much narrower GS or Slalom ski. My 78mm waisted No Ka Ois feel a lot like my old 63mm Rossi 7S's, for example, though perhaps not quite as turny.

Anyway, don't think too narrow, cuz many of the 80-100mm skis rip all around.

But yeah, good one on demoing the Mantra. Really, you're prolly gonna end up loving the 184.
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