Long-range forecasters predict a colder-than-average winter for the UK and The Alps.

UK forecast

Here's a look at the long-range snow forecast for the UK:

The first snowfall of the season came in early October in the Scottish highlands and, although this is not unusual for this time of year, it did contribute to the growing speculation in the media about 2011-12 being the 'coldest winter on record'.

Paul Hudson, a climate correspondent for the BBC, says: "With the sun much more active than this time last year, there are no guarantees that this winter is going to be cold and snowy, but on the balance of probabilities a colder-than-average winter is the most likely scenario."

This would mean some disruption due to snow, but not as extreme or long lived as last year. It's worth pointing out that this would mean the fourth colder-than-average winter in succession, itself unusual for the UK. Paul says with this being the case, we shouldn't altogether rule out an average, or even a mild winter.

James Madden, Exacta Weather long range forecaster, goes into more detail: "I expect December, January and February to experience below average temperatures, with the heaviest snowfalls occurring within the time frame of November to January across many parts of the UK."

So will we have a white Christmas in the UK this year? The Met Office says: "We cannot forecast the likelihood of snow on any given Christmas Day until five days before. In terms of the statistical likelihood of snow based on climatology, we know that a snowflake has fallen on Christmas day 38 times in the last 51 years, therefore we can probably expect more than half of all Christmases to be a 'white Christmas' in this sense."

European forecast

Here's a look at the long-range snow forecast for the 2011-12 ski season in Europe:

According to NOAA, winter in Europe will be colder than average with more snowfall than last year, but it won't be the massive snow season many europeans have been hoping for.

Early winter forecast: November and December will be colder and drier than average across The Alps and Scotland.

Mid-winter forecast: January and February will bring average temperatures and average precipitation to the Western Alps and Scotland. It will be colder and drier than average in the Eastern and Southern Alps.

Late-winter forecast: March and April will be warmer than average in the Western Alps and Scotland with average levels of precipitation. The Eastern and Southern Alps will see average temperatures and drier than average conditions.

Snowsure destinations

Long-range snow forecasting is always tricky: for a firmer guarentee of good snow on the slopes, it's all about location, location, location.

Most ski resorts have good conditions from January to March, but if you're planning a trip for early or late in the season, you'll need to be sure the ski area you're heading to is either high in the mountains or high in the world (at a northerly latitude, like Finland or Sweden). Look for the height at the top of the ski area - ideally you want it over 2500m to increase the likelihood of a decent vertical.

Here is our pick of ski resorts with good snow records: [R592R, Alpe d'Huez], [R483R, Val d'Isere], [R422R, St. Anton am Arlberg], [R206R, La Plagne], [R517R, Zermatt], [R602R, Val Thorens], [R106R, Chamonix], [R564R, Obergurgl-Hochgurgl], [R600R, Tignes], [R2041R, Hemsedal] and [R1963R, Trysil].

Stay up to date with five-day snow forecasts at OnTheSnow