Last morning of 2014 officially the coldest of the year in Steamboat at 26 below | SteamboatToday.com

Last morning of 2014 officially the coldest of the year in Steamboat at 26 below

Icicles hang from a rooftop in Steamboat Springs on Wednesday afternoon.

— Steamboat Ski Area finished December with 56.25 inches of snow at midmountain, which is less than the all-year average of 67.3, but all skiers and riders here will remember about December is a streak of 17 straight days of snow that wasn't broken until New Year's Eve.

December got off to a slow start with an inch of snow on the first day of the month followed by 12 days when only a quarter of an inch of the precious white stuff was recorded. It finally snowed 4 inches at Thunderhead on Dec. 14 followed by 13 inches Dec. 15, and that wound up being the biggest 24-hour snow total of the 17-day run.

But it kept snowing in Steamboat for virtually the second half of the month. There were no big dumps at midmountain, but the slopes were freshened every day until the arrival of a cold spell on the final day of the month cleared the skies.

The Storm Peak summit saw significant powder days with 9 inches of powder Dec. 22 and 10 inches Monday.

Steamboat's temperature was under-performing the forecast Wednesday afternoon, with the mercury still hovering at 2 degrees below zero at 1:30 p.m. and unlikely to climb to the afternoon high of 17 degrees predicted by the National Weather Service. However, relief was on the way, with Saturday's high expected to reach 24 degrees under sunny skies that could make it feel even milder outside. And by Jan. 6, high temperatures could edge above the freezing mark in town.

New Year's Eve morning in Routt County was the coldest of the entire year. The National Weather Service reported many locations north of Interstate 70 saw the coldest temperatures of all, and senior forecaster Chris Cuoco confirmed that the 26 degrees below zero reported at the Steamboat Springs Airport on Wednesday was the coldest of 2014. It was even colder in Craig — 29 degrees below zero.

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Records kept at the Weather Service "Now Data" site report Wednesday morning was unofficially the coldest of 2014 in the city of Steamboat.

The coldest day of January 2014 was the 13 below recorded Jan. 9, and the coldest it got in February was the back-to-back 9 below recorded Feb. 5 and 6. The coldest morning in March was the zero-degree reading recorded March 13. Because the official weather station is above the valley floor, it's possible it was colder along the river on those mornings.

If one wants to find colder temperatures in Steamboat in the past 13 months, they can be found Dec. 5 and 6, 2013, when it was 22 below zero and 24 below, respectively. Two of the coldest mornings in the past five years came back to back Feb. 2 and 3, 2011, when it was 36 below both days.

The most recent cold snap is due to break early in the new year, but Steamboat's tourism levels will remain high through Wednesday with the changing of the guard during the weekend from families vacationing throughout the holiday break to the good-natured Tex-Americana crowds who arrive Sunday for the MusicFest at Steamboat.

The lodging barometer released Wednesday by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association expects 15,548 visitors to spend the night here Saturday representing 95 percent occupancy, with that number inevitably inflated by friends and families of residents who don't check into lodging properties.

Tourism remains strong through Wednesday with projected 88 percent occupancy and just more than 14,000 people in town. Resort workers catch their breath Jan. 15, when the early forecast expects 8,639 people to visit Steamboat. Still, that's up 1,500 people from the early forecast for the corresponding Wednesday in 2014.

The barometer's look back at the Saturday after Christmas shows that the actual "pillow count" in Steamboat was 15,310 visitors, down from 16,240 on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013.

Conditions at Yampa Valley Regional Airport were good Wednesday, and arriving flights were booked to 71 percent of capacity with more travelers departing than arriving. The airport was expecting 681 arrivals and 853 departures.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1