I know not to test drive cars I can't afford but didn't know how that applied in other circumstances like skiing.
I went skiing today and yesterday rented skis from Any Mountain.
My choices were the basic super-stable beginner ski, a higher end ski with more stiffness and speed, and some demos. I said that I probably wasn't an advanced enough skier to control the demos, but was interested in the second one. After some description I decided that it was worth trying especially if it would help me learn to ski better.
I brought my old slow skis to Sugar Bowl as well just in case I couldn't control the skis I rented. Turned out the rented skis handled beautifully, easy to control and very responsive. I had a great day skiing and I don't know whether it was because of the skis, or my improved skills or better leg strength (though I will have some left quad weakness), or a combination.
On the way back I decided to check out how much they were as I'm planning on skiing 4 more times this season and it might make sense to just buy them rather than rent. So when returning the skis I asked to see the equivalent retail model.
Well. It turns out that what I thought was a nice midline ski (made by Volkl) is actually a high performance ski. The responsiveness and control I noticed comes from the fact that there's a thin layer of titanium (!) embedded in it. And it's $800-$1000. Ack!
Here's one reference: http://www.rei.com/product/774394
And here's a similar, woman specific, model that they have demos of that I'll have to try out sometime: http://www.rei.com/product/774405
They say they do sell them at the end of the season, which is tempting, however that doesn't help me right now. Maybe I'll just rent demos since it appears that I can actually handle high performance skis.
I always say only buy [quality-wise] up to what you can tell the difference. Unfortunately now I can tell the difference (ouch).
THIS JUST IN
At the time of writing, eBay did not show any Volkl skis in my size, but today (the next day) Liquidation Sports did show a used pair (probably also from a rental fleet) and the buy it now price was reasonable ($120), so I did order that. Shipping of skis is steep which drives it up to $150, but that it still cheaper than 4 rentals. These will probably be fine for another season or two and then I'll probably be so hooked that I want a new pair.
I'll look into selling my old Rossignols on Craigslist. I like Craigslist as then I can deal locally and not have to deal with shipping.