One thing to remember is factor in where you will be skiing. That is why my short list had the Volkl's, Fischers, and Heads. All of these skis are known to be great performers in hard-packed, icy, over-skied (basically crappy) conditions.
I ski Windham, Hunter, Belleayre (my favorate), Butternut, Catamount, and Thunder Ridge (its close to home). Occasionally I will go to Mt. Snow or Killington or Stratton.
But where I ski (and you too) are the most commonly used trails that are hard packed and often icy with tons of ruts and crowds.
So my advice is when you read other peoples suggestions, including mine, make sure that their reasons are pertainant to where and how YOU ski. Also, The NE and NY mounains are very different. People who ski where you ski should give you more accurate advise as to what characteristics in a ski you should look for.
I agree, demo skis is best, but I found it confusing, because I demo'd skis under different conditions and at different mountains. Contrary to most, I did not like the Atomics. I felt they wer less "spots car like". I demo's both Heads and Atomics back-to-back one day. Two weeks later I demo's the Rx6's and Volkls. I would have bought any of the three, I chose the Fischers because of the price. I was hesitant about the Atomics....but that is ME. I know I would have been happy with the Heads or Volkls, I am not sure about the Atomics.
If you cant demo and you really need to purchase (Princeton is having a big sale this weekend at the Meadowlands) I would go with the Heads of Fischers.