Two outstanding questions of the ski-snow friction are considered: the deformation mode of the snow and the real contact area. The deformation of hard, well sintered snow in a short time impact has been measured with a special linear friction tester. Four types of deformations have been identified: brittle fracture of bonds, plastic deformation of ice at the contact spots, elastic and delayed elastic deformation of the snow matrix. The latter is the dominant deformation in the ski-snow contact. Based on the measured loading curves the mechanical energy dissipation of snow deformation in skiing on hard snow has been determined and found negligible compared to the thermal energy dissipation. A mechanical model consisting of ice spheres supported by rheological elements (a non-linear spring in series with a Kelvin element) is proposed to model the deformation of snow in the ski-snow contact. The model can describe the delayed elastic behaviour of snow. Coupled with the complete topographical description of the snow surface obtained from X-ray micro computer tomography measurements, the model predicts the number and area of contact spots between ski and snow. An average contact spot size of 110 μm, and a relative real contact area of 0.4% has been found.