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    Dreaming of a White Christmas?

    We may have experienced a sudden cold snap but, as always, the chances of a snowy British December are rather slim.This is of course a good thing for drivers who want to avoid icy, dangerous conditions and snail's pace traffic flow, but if you crave a truly festive scene, or can't wait until 2009 to hit the ski slopes, it seems you're in luck.According to skiclub.co.uk, reports are already showing a very healthy covering of snow throughout popular European resorts like Val d'Isère in the French Alps, and some Austrian resorts. Traditionally the ski season doesn't really start until January, when the atmosphere picks up and the après-ski night-life starts to buzz. But for anyone who wants to work on their technique, avoid the crowds, or even just enjoy a cosy stay in a chalet (and a chance to visit some fantastic Christmas markets en-route), December could be the perfect time to go.As well as not having to queue for the ski-lifts or drinks, you might also be able to bag a much-needed bargain. There are still some excellent deals to be found as tour operators compete to avoid the effects of the credit crunch (though these might soon be snapped up as word of the weather forecast spreads), and generally prices are cheaper outside the peak season.Hiring a car on arrival is a great way to make sure you don't miss out on all the best festive sights. You might even be able to squeeze in a stop in Geneva or Vienna for some shopping. But don't forget, driving in snow-laden mountains requires a bit of preparation and either a four-wheel drive vehicle, or snow chains/tyres.Some countries legally require cars to have snow chains or snow tyres during the winter months. Car hire outlets in these destinations (including Austria, Norway and Switzerland) will have a mandatory winter season fee to cover the provision of such equipment.You can find full details of the winter season requirements for each region, along with some sensible advice on essential items to pack for a safe journey, and all the essential tips for handling a car in snowy conditions, in the Auto Europe 'Snow-Safe Driving Guide'.

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