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FAIRBANKS - It's that time of year, when Alaskans can profit from their extensive knowledge of ice.
Tickets went on sale Monday for the Nenana Ice Classic. Now in its 94th year, the classic is a springtime tradition in which Alaskans try to guess the precise moment when the ice will go out on the Tanana River at Nenana.
The winning time is based on when a large, wooden tripod set up on the ice moves a certain distance. The tripod is connected by a cable to a clock on land. When the cable tightens, the clock stops.
Last year, the ice went out at 8:41 p.m. on May 1. Two winning tickets shared a jackpot of $283,723.
"With any luck at all we'll have a $300,000 jackpot," said Ice Classic manager Cherrie Forness.
Last year's jackpot was the second-lowest in the past 10 years, which Forness blamed on the chilly economic conditions.
Tickets at $2.50 apiece are sold at more than 200 locations around the state through midnight April 5.
Forness spent the past two weeks delivering and mailing the trademark red ticket cans to bars, stores and gas stations around the state where tickets are sold.
"Everybody was happy to see us," she said of the ticket vendors. "There was only one person who said, 'Oh no.' She said it's too much work."
Officials have yet to measure the ice, but will do so this week. Last year, the first ice measurement was taken on Feb. 5 and the ice was 42.5 inches thick. The ice typically gets thicker in February and March before shrinking in April. Last year's thickest ice measurement was 46.75 inches on April 9.
Prognosticators will have to weigh some competing factors when putting their skills to the test. This winter hasn't been especially cold, but there also hasn't been much snow to insulate the ice from the cold.
The wooden tripod will be placed on the ice March 7 - at the end of the town's annual Tripod Days celebration.