Correction: The winning time of the Ice Classic was 3:48 p.m., AST on April 25. An earlier version of this story listed an incorrect time.
FAIRBANKS — Charles Zimmerman knew he was one of the winners in the Nenana Ice Classic almost two weeks ago.
The 61-year-old telephone technician from Manley Hot Springs bought five tickets for this year's contest and wrote down the dates and times he picked for each before depositing them in one of the Classic's red ticket cans.
One of them was 3:48 p.m. Alaska Standard Time on April 25, this year's winning time.
"I knew the day the ice went out," Zimmerman said by phone on Tuesday.
So when Ice Classic officials finally contacted him on Monday to confirm that he indeed was one of the winners in Alaska's oldest, richest guessing game, Zimmerman didn't get too excited. He's not that kind of guy.
"What's to get excited about," he said. "I get to pay extra taxes,"
Zimmerman held one of 25 winning tickets in this year's Ice Classic, the annual guessing game in which Alaskans try to guess the exact day and time the Tanana River ice will go out in Nenana.
His share of what was a Classic record $363,627 jackpot came out to $14,545.08 before taxes and $10,472.46 after Uncle Sam took his cut.
There was no specific reason Zimmerman chose the winning day and time.
"I took a wild ass guess," is how he put it. "I just figured it would be early. There wasn't as much snow this year as there was last year and we had a pretty warm winter."
Zimmerman's was one of nine winning tickets held by Interior residents or pools. There were six winning tickets from Fairbanks and one each from Delta Junction, Manley Hot Springs and Nenana.
In addition, there were six winning tickets from Anchorage and one each from Eagle River, Homer, Juneau, Nome, Palmer, Sterling, Talkeetna, and Wasilla, Ice Classic manager Cherrie Forness said. There were also two winning tickets from the Lower 48, one from Boise, Idaho, and one from Baker City, Ore.
Zimmerman has been playing the Ice Classic since he moved to Alaska in 1978 but this is the first time he's won.
"I play every year," he said. "I came within three minutes one year and I've been within five or seven minutes a couple of times."
Zimmerman promised to take his girlfriend of 35 years, Tanis Joiner, to dinner at the Turtle Club with part of his winnings and said he'll spend the rest on his "toys."
"I've got bulldozers and trucks," he said. "Everything needs work."
Judi Moss, of Fairbanks, also knew she was a winner the day the ice went out because she had her guesses written down.
"I've been playing for 35 years, it's about time I won something," Moss said.
Moss, a 61-year-old retired Teamster, purchased 14 tickets and put them all on April 23, 24 and 25 in memory of her mother's passing 14 years ago. The times she picked were random.
"My mother passed away on April 24 so I kind of use that day, the day before and the day after," she said. "I've been using those dates for a long time."
Like Zimmerman, she would have been more excited had the jackpot not been split so many ways.
"Why did so many people pick a day the ice had never gone out before?" she said, adding that she will use her winnings to pay bills. "You'd think since it never went out on that day nobody'd be picking it."
It was the first time in the 98-year history of the Ice Classic that the ice went out on April 25.
That's precisely the reason Tim Staton, of Fairbanks, chose that date. Staton shared a winning ticket with former Fairbanksan Mike Smith, who now lives in Arizona.
"It was a day the ice hadn't gone out and I had a feeling I should put that day down," he said.
As for the time, Staton said it was a lucky guess.
"I was writing down a lot of eights," he said. "I kept ending everything in eight."
Amazingly, it was the second time in four years that Staton and Smith won. They also won in 2011 when the ice went out at 4:24 p.m. on May 4. That year they shared the jackpot with 22 other winners and took home about half of what they won this year.
"It's not about the money, it's about the fact I won the Ice Classic after playing it for so long," said Staton, who owns Alaska Gold and Gems in the Co-op Plaza. "I've played it every year since I got here in 1979 or 1980 but to win it twice in four years is pretty cool."
For the 66-year-old Smith, it was the third time he has won the Classic. He was part of a 10-person pool that won the entire $115,000 jackpot in 1986.
"It never gets old," Smith said about winning.
Smith started playing the Ice Classic when he moved to Alaska in 1976 and continues to play it even after leaving the state. His last two wins have come since he retired and moved to Arizona in 2010. He and Staton buy 40 tickets each year and they each get 20 guesses.
A pool from Walsh, Kelliher and Sharp, a Fairbanks accounting firm, also will be cashing in a winning ticket.
"We do it every year and we laugh about it ever year," firm president Therese Sharp said. "We always say, 'We're gonna win, we're gonna win.' "
The pool, which includes 20 people, bought 200 tickets and each person filled out 10 tickets. Matt Curley, a new hire at the firm, picked this year's winning time, Sharp said. Each person in the pool will get a little more than $400.
"If you look at how much we've paid for tickets over the years, after taxes we're probably not ahead but we take pride in the fact we can say we won the Ice Classic," Sharp said.
Needless to say, pool participants knew they had won the day the ice went out, she said.
"We're CPAs," Sharp said with a laugh.
Contact staff writer Tim Mowry at 459-7587. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors.
• Winning Tickets
Here's the breakdown of where the 25 winning ticket holders in the 98th annual Nenana Ice Classic are from:
Anchorage (6); Fairbanks (6); Delta Junction; Eagle River; Homer; Juneau; Manley Hot Springs; Nenana; Nome; Palmer; Sterling; Talkeetna; Wasilla.
Boise, Idaho; Baker City, Oregon