Just to report back on my ski buying adventure. I've skied my new Elan Waveflex 10s twice, once on some decent but skied-out groomers (skis were fun, easy to turn), and then last night on frozen crud and ice patches. I was very, very happy with the experience. Lessons and practice are the essential elements, but good gear sure makes a difference.
Again, thanks to everyone who contributed to this thread.