Hi Crowder--welcome to EpicSki!
I agree with all who have suggested buying boots first, and waiting on the skis. And when the time comes, to buy good skis that you'll grow into, rather than "beginner" skis. Boots must not only fit well, they must also be set up properly. Everyone is built a little differently, and evolution has hardly optimized our build for the demands of skiing. Properly setup boots transform us from "people with our feet stuffed into poorly fitting boxes" into ... skiers!
Regarding lessons--you will not learn good technique or tactics without them. That much I guarantee. We are all self-taught, in the sense that whatever we do, it is our own bodies that must learn the moves, and they'll only do that through practice. And our bodies will learn and improve at whatever we "teach" them--whether that is good skiing habits or bad.
I once knew a self-taught "scratch golfer" who, despite his evident skill and talent, became frustrated that he was unable to improve beyond his admittedly already high level. He had reached a plateau, and finally decided it was time to take a lesson from a respected golf pro. The pro tweaked his grip and readjusted his stance slightly. Naturally, his performance declined! It took him a while to adapt to the changes, and then, finally, he reached the breakthrough that brought his game to a new level. His only regret was that he hadn't learned the good foundation from the start, and that he had had to go through the frustration of replacing bad habits with good.
That is exactly what will happen if you teach yourself to ski--or even if you learn from well-meaning "good" skiing friends (unless they are qualified, professional instructors). If you practice bad skiing, you will get "good" at bad skiing--like most people on the slopes. If you're athletic, you'll get good at bad skiing more quickly than less-athletic people. But the outcome will be the same!
If you're all right with becoming just another "terminal intermediate" skier, skidding all over the mountain, or carving out-of-control edge-locked arcs, you can do it! But if you really consider yourself an athlete, I would think that that fate would be something you'd prefer to avoid.
Do you know the difference between good skiing habits and bad? Do you know the pitfalls and traps that invariably lead people to develop bad skiing habits? No? You know what to do!
EpicSki can help you here, to some extent. Ask good questions and learn to filter the wheat from the chaffe. There is a wealth of information already here about the basics of good technique and tactics, and a number of instructors who will be happy to share their thoughts and experence. But nothing else can substitute for real lessons from a qualified, certified, instructor!