Contest invites guesses on when the ice breaks on Alaska’s Tanana river

Monday, January 4, 2010

Contest to guess when ice breaks on Alaska river

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Alaskans have been betting on when the ice on the Tanana River in the town of Nenana will break each spring since 1917, placing their wagers in red cans in grocery stores, gas stations and other retailers around the state.

The bets, at $2.50 apiece, can be placed between Feb. 1 and April 5. The 2009 total reached $283,723.

But non-residents can take part in the contest too, by mailing in their bets with a check or money order. For details and contact information, visit the Web site at

The Web site also includes detailed data from winning dates in past years for out-of-towners who care to study up. Your guess must include the hour and minute (Alaska time) of the ice break. Most years, the ice has broken in late April or early to mid-May.

A trip-wired tripod planted 2 feet into the ice officially records the time of the ice break. When the ice cracks, a wire connecting the tripod to a clock is triggered, stopping the clock.

Or if you prefer to place your bet in person and see some of that ice before it disappears with the coming of spring, visit Nenana March 6-8 for its Tripod Days festival. The event features a basketball tournament, Texas Hold ‘Em poker championships, a biscuit-and-gravy breakfast, donut eating contest and hula hoop contest.

While most visitors come to Alaska in the summer, winter offers unique experiences like a chance to see the Northern Lights, dog-sledding and snowmobiling, and Fairbanks’ annual World Ice Art Championships, held this year Feb. 20-March 28.

The state also hosts a variety of wacky events like Tripod Days as winter gives way to spring. The events include:

—The Anchorage Fur Rendezvous Festival, which started 75 years ago as a way to welcome miners and trappers to town, featuring a fur auction, blanket toss, snowshoe-softball tournament, outhouse races, ice bowling, the Miners and Trappers Ball and the sprint-distance Rondy World Championship Sled Dog Race, Feb. 26-March 7,

—The Cordova Iceworm Festival, in its 50th year, with an annual parade, survival suit races, a variety show and the coronation of Miss Iceworm, food fair and arts and crafts show, Feb. 5-7,

—Wrangell’s Tent City Festival, an annual celebration of the Gold Rush era in Alaska’s Inside Passage, with contests, Tent City theatrical performances, a fashion show, and dress ball, Feb. 5-7,

—Fairbanks’ Chatanika Days with outhouse races, a snowmobile tug-of-war, human bowling on ice, a bucksaw contest, a long-john contest, snowshoe races and live music, March 27-28,

For more winter events and festivals and to plan a trip to Alaska, go to

June 30, 2010: 4:01 pm

Alaska has so many crazy traditions; it’s worth living here just to be a part of all the quirky things we come up with for fun.

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