They are expensive to manufacture, especially as you get up the food chain, and they carry high distribution and marketting costs, as you suggest. So all things being equal, I wouldn't say they were all terribly over-priced. $300-600 is not a lot of money to spend on a piece of equipent that will offer you great enjoyment -- It is a lot to spend on outdated equipment that no one else wanted, so its a fine line..
That said, some skis are approaching $1,000 retail (horribly expensive, but IINM still cheaper historically adjusted for inflation), and unless I had money to burn I would _never_ buy a new model year ski from a dealer at this time of year. There are all kinds of ways to score deals on skis -- check the internet (I bought a pair of current year Atomics 9.22 HC from France (!) last year for $300 bucks.), as you're doing, shop for last years models, late season, find some demos in good shape, etc.. Just shopping for less well-known or hot models (Fisher, for instance) can save you a lot of money. Also, unless you really feel you need the high-end model to support your ability level, don't be afraid to buy the cheaper models -- be honest about your actual skill level and you might save some money.
All that said, you probably should be prepared to pay at least $300-400 or so if you don't go used.
<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ October 11, 2001 02:43 PM: Message edited 5 times, by Lodro ]</font>