I always try to demo. For 'everyday' teaching skis, I'm on them so much that I really have to love them in all sorts of conditions.
I've only bought two pairs of skis without trying that exact model. One was a really good deal on lightly used Blizzard 8.7 Magnums, which are pretty much universally adored. If I hated them I could have resold them for about what I paid, maybe losing $50-100 at most. The other was a crazy deal on closeout Fischer Watea 94s. I was able to try the next width down (84, I think?), and with that experience I felt comfortable buying the 94s.
Originally Posted by LiquidFeet
...There are lots of mountains here in NE which have no [on-mountiain demos]. You have to drive into town and rent a demo. Then drive back to the mountain and try it out. If you want to try another, back into the car and to the shop to change skis. Waaaaay too much shuffling around.
This is annoying, but I've done it a couple times. It's not so bad if you do two half-days and swap at lunchtime. Most shops can turn you around in 5-10 minutes, since they already have all your DIN info. On a multi-day trip, you can stop at the shop every morning and try a different pair each day.
What if you want to buy new skis early season before they are sold out? Gotta buy untried.
Buying new is overrated. (Frankly, I'd never buy new at retail prices. I've only bought one brand-new current-year pair of skis even at pro discount pricing.) I'd say just look for a lightly used pair, or buy last year's model for a steep discount. If you insist on buying brand new very popular skis, you may have to pay the price for being on the cutting edge.
If you depend on "demo days" at the mountain and you are a woman, forget it. The reps don't bring that many women's skis to our mountains here in NE.
That I don't have any personal experience with, but I often run into similar issues with size. I almost always want the longest length (since I'm 6'6"), and often they only have ones closer to the middle of the range.
Sometimes you have to just try something as similar as you can get and extrapolate. e.g. you could try the men's/unisex version of whatever ski you're interested in, maybe go down a size. Or if there's a softer version of the men's ski (one model down), you could try that. If you like the feel of the ski but want it softer, the women's version may be just right. If you hate the feel, the women's version probably won't be much different.