FAIRBANKS — A husband and wife from Kenai were the sole winners of the $318,500 Nenana Ice Classic jackpot on Monday in what was the latest breakup on record in the 97-year history of Alaska’s richest guessing game.
While nobody guessed the exact time — 2:41 p.m. Alaska Standard Time — that the Tanana River ice went out on Monday, Warren and Yvonne Snow of Kenai were the closest to it with a guess of 2:40 p.m.
It was the latest breakup in the 97-year history of the Ice Classic, a contest in which thousands of Alaskans pay $2.50 per chance to guess the exact time and date the Tanana River ice goes out at Nenana. The previous late breakup record was 11:41 a.m. AST on May 20, 1964.
It marked the second time the Snows have won the Ice Classic. They were among 46 winning ticket holders who split a $285,000 jackpot in 2005 when they guessed the ice would go out on April 28 at 2:01 p.m.
That year, the Snows pocketed only $6,195.65 after taxes. This year, they’ll get a check for $229,320 after Uncle Sam takes his cut.
“What’s funny is we’re trying to buy a home Outside for retirement,” 50-year-old Warren Snow, a retired peace officer for the Department of Corrections, said when reached by phone Monday shortly after learning he and his wife had won. “This should definitely give us a shot in the arm for that.”
Warren Snow said he and his wife purchased 50 Ice Classic tickets and each filled out 25. He wasn’t sure who picked the winning time but said it was probably his wife.
“She’s the lucky one in the family,” he said of Yvonne, a 42-year-old paramedic and firefighter for the Nikiski Fire Department.
Their win marked the second-biggest solo jackpot win in Ice Classic history, ranking only behind Tommy Waters, of Fairbanks, who won a record $350,000 last year when the ice went out at 7:39 p.m. AST on April 23.
The wooden tripod was sitting on an ice sheet at the edge of an open channel when the ice broke off and floated down the river, triggering a siren in town to notify residents the tripod was moving.
“A big (ice) jam broke loose upriver by the railroad bridge and started moving down,” Ice Classic manager Cherrie Forness said, referring to the Alaska Railroad bridge about one-half mile upstream of where the tripod sat on the ice. “It just kind of took the whole sheet of ice the tripod was on with it.”
The tripod was still upright as it floated down the river on the ice but it eventually tipped over and the ice jammed up, she said.
Bystanders on shore could be seen on a webcam taking pictures of the tripod as it floated down the river. A crowd of about 25 people were on hand to witness the historic event, Forness said.
Warren Snow said he was monitoring the tripod on the Ice Classic webcam for a while on Monday but gave up before it floated downriver.
“I was refreshing my page every now, and then and after a while, I just said, ‘Well, maybe tomorrow,’” he said.
His wife had several more guesses on Tuesday and Wednesday, he said.
The Snows will receive their check on June 1, Forness said.
Contact staff writer Tim Mowry at 459-7587. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors.