Originally Posted by Philpug
In most cases, the first thing you are demoing is the snow, the second is the tune and thirdly the ski. With that said, honestly most people aren't in a position to demo in the truest sense of the word, because they don't have a solid point of reference.
I agree with this. I also agree with some of the OP's original points, including ski magazines. It's always en vogue to rag on ski reviews, but many of the favorites here correlate just fine to favorites there, and for the same general reasons. IMO, EpicSki tends to skew more to certain brands, because they are perennial favorites of its primary testers, who may align close enough in desired ski traits to have small test group "aha!!!" moments.
Let's look at Blizzard as an example. There is literally no way that the Brahma and Latigo were not going to get "aha!!!" reviews here. That's not a bad thing, but I don't see why anybody wouldn't look for those occasional gem comments in mag reviews as well;
I also agree that where your resort shop has a rental that intrigues you, and will credit your rental to purchase, and that you might take out 2-3 times on different days, all day, makes a ton of sense for us folks without "a solid point of reference."
I arrived at my most recent purchase, the Salomon Rocker2 100 in a 186cm in this order:
1) I bought a used pair of Rocker2 92 cheaply with good bindings mounted to my BSL in order to test shape and more centered mounted theory without exploding waist width theory at the same time. Reviews on this ski were generally mediocre at best, but they seemed to be "why have a narrow powder ski?" And I was thinking "yes, I know why I might want a narrow powder ski";
2) I started skiing the Rocker2's as a daily driver due to fun factor and versatility, i.e. "why have a narrow powder ski.";
3) I didn't want to test waist width theory as the only changing variable by going big. I didn't want to go up a size to the 98mm class while also changing shape and construction back to more "all mountain";
4) So I had two choices: the Nordica Soul Rider and the Salomon heir apparent Rocker2 100. Both forward mounted, both "camrock" designs, both not designed around waist width as the Unified Theory of Everything;
5) Phil did a very quick review of the Rocker2 last year at Mammoth IIRC, landed it in the Steals and Deals for versatility, the word giggles may have been used, and suggested something to the effect of To Quest or To Rocker, This May Be the Question of Your Freeride Future. Indeed - that's one of those gem comments;
6) The Jane Shop carried the Rocker2 100 along with the Rossi 7 Series skis this season. The shop guys all said it was their favorite, as well as in customer feedback. So I rented it twice, all day, once on a powder day and once on a day after in mixed conditions. Love;
7) I bought it at retail minus two rental days with a free binding mount at a shop where I ski a lot. That's max return for min time and effort.
Now is there a better ski I could have bought? Impossible to know. But why would I care when my Unified Theory of the Future centered on narrow versatile powder skis with a playful forward mount is fully intact?