The Nenana Ice Classic is a lottery based on the closest guess as to when the Tanana River will “go out” or break up. A tripod is placed on the Tanana River at the village of Nenena where it is tethered to a clock (see below) which is tripped when the tripod and ice start to go down river (see video for visual).
The Ice Classic got it’s official start in 1917 after a few prior bets brought widespread interest among Alaskan’s and residents of the Yukon Territory. Bettor’s must guess the closest time to actual break up but annual variation in temperature, snow fall, and ice depth (sometimes over 4′ thick) confound betting.
The 97th Nenena Ice Classic in 2013 had only one winning ticket possessed by Warren and Yvonne Snow of Kenai. There prize of $318,000 was won after the ice went out May 20 at 2:41 pm. The winning couple guessed only one minute earlier at 2:40.
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