The Scottish Tourist Board has been accused of trying to lure winter sports enthusiasts to the country with "misleading" decade-old footage of snow-covered mountainsides.
The country's small skiing community was perplexed when a promotional video showed enviable Alpine-like conditions on mountains that have not seen a decent snowfall in years.
The short film, shown in English cinemas and online across the world, depicts breathtaking footage of year-round sports, including ice-climbing up a frozen waterfall and boarding down a snowy piste. Yet the country has not seen heavy snowfall or extremely low temperatures for seven years. VisitScotland has admitted the ice-climbing footage was filmed on Beinn Bhan in Wester Ross in the north-west Highlands during the 1990s. The organisation could not say when the skiing footage was filmed, except that because of recent winter conditions, it could not have been after 2003.
Snowfall has become so scarce that ski centre Nevis Range, at the foot of Ben Nevis, introduced mountain biking to its often bare slopes six years ago. Virginia Millen, from the centre, said: "The weather is changing here and we have been forced to diversify with biking all year round. It's wrong for the tourist board to use such old images like that and quite misleading. They should focus on what we can offer today, not ten years ago."
Marjory Roy, former head of the Scottish Met Office and a cross-country skier, said skiing in Scotland had become increasingly difficult. "We are not getting much good snow these days and when we do, it tends to be followed by mild weather so it melts too quickly.
"To book a ski holiday to Scotland you'd have to be jolly lucky with your dates. You might book a two-week holiday and not see a single day's skiing," she added.
The chronic lack of snow last winter forced Alan Crichton, a professional mountaineer and guide, to cancel his entire programme of courses. He said: "You can still go ice-climbing in Scotland but it won't be to the quality that was shown in the tourist board's video."
Last year, the country's largest skiing centre, Glenshee in Perthshire, managed only 34 skiing days, a third of the annual average. It is a part of a long-term trend in which the number of days fit for skiing and snowboarding has fallen by a quarter during the past two decades. Average winter temperatures in Scotland have risen by 1C since the early 1960s.
But VisitScotland defended the advert. "Our adventure cinema and TV advert aims to inspire people to visit Scotland to take part in the wide range of adventure sports and activities available – everything from surfing to mountain biking," said a spokeswoman.
"Winter climbing remains a very popular activity. The advert is an important part of our efforts to promote Scotland as Europe's number one adventure destination," she added.