you and your difficult questions...
I consider them all in relative terms, because the relativity generally is what I use to make a decision.
now, for the real shocker:
this season I got 3 new pairs of skis, and demo'd NONE of them before buying.
I think that the demo process can be its own sub-world of skiing. Spend enough time learning different skis' flavors, and you learn something about the ski's role in the process. But you can get bogged down in minutiae. At some point, you have skied enough things to form your own baseline of what the better skimag tests are saying. I ignore Ski/SKIING in favor of Keelty's reviews, as well as those from Ski Canada, Ski Press, Backcountry mag, Couloir mag. I have a fair handle on what these mags' reviews mean relative to my own experiences.
And what did I find this year?
That the reviews I read on the 3 skis I bought this year were pretty well on-the-money, but I think were overgenerous on the Black Diamond Havoc, which doesn't have the same feel of overall quality, power, stability and speed of my Big Stix 8.6, but is touted as a "demanding" ski -- something I don't find at all.