I am not a regular poster here (though I lurk a lot), and I am in NO way a gear expert... but I have a story about buying new skis without trying them first. Keep in mind as you read this that I live in Grand Forks, North Dakota - one of the flattest spots on the face of the earth.
I skied a LOT as a kid, and consider myself to be an intermediate to expert skier. After moving to ND, I skied very little, and couldn't justify replacing the Kneissel Shorts I bought in 1977 (stop laughing!!) I spent a few years teaching my kids to ski, so my own needs weren't as important.
Finally, a few years ago, I broke down and rented a pair of Atomic C:9 Puls, and LOVED them. I am not equipment-savvy enough to describe what I liked, except that I felt like they sang to me. Turning was effortless, and I ended up staying an extra day because I couldn't bear to give them back. I was hooked.
So I went to my local ski shop, where they only carried Volkl and K2. I explained how much I loved the Atomics I rented, and asked if anything they had was comparable. They assured me that the K2 Flight was just what I needed. Feeling nervous about buying without trying, I took the plunge, and was not happy. They talked to me, but didn't sing. Since I don't ski much each year, I don't expect to buy new skis again for a long time - they had to be perfect. I ended up selling the K2's to a friend, and the local ski shop got me a pair of Atomic Balanze - the new model of the C:9 I had rented and loved. (Bonus - the rental skis were puke green; my new ones are lovely red and white. I would have gladly purchased the ugly skis, because they made me look so good, but pretty is even better!)
If I had never tried the Atomics, I might have thought the K2's were as good as it got, and I never would have known any better. But once I found something I REALLY loved, I wasn't willing to settle for less.
I know I could have just bought new skis on-line, but I prefer to support my local independent businesses whenever I can.