The industry said the unseasonable flurries in the Cairngorms could be an indication that a big freeze is on its way this winter.

Ski centres across the Highlands suffered one of their worst ever seasons last year.

The Met Office said this winter is set to be colder than previous years.

Colin Kirkwood, of CairnGorm Mountain, said he had high hopes that skiers and snowboarders would be flocking back to the mountains after the unusually warm winters of the last 10 years

He added: "It is unseasonably early this year. It is usually October before we get to see any kind of covering. Hopefully it's a sign of things to come."

Holidaymaker Jan Measures, enjoying a trip to the Highlands from her home in Wakefield, was one of the first to take a stroll in the autumn snow.

She took her terrier Gemma to the top of the Cairngorms, where there was about two inches of snow.

'Noticeably colder'

Mrs Measures said: "It was the last thing we were expecting when we came on holiday in September.

"But it's great. Gemma is loving the snow. It was an unexpected treat."

A Met Office spokesman said: "Most of the winters in the last 10 years have been relatively mild, with last winter being the second warmest on record.

"We expect it to be noticeably colder than last year."