There was never a Chilkoot Lake Ice Classic, though Ted Gregg thought there should have been. Ted stood up at a Haines Chamber of Commerce meeting in the late 1980s and proposed, straight-faced, an end-of-winter lottery for locals to guess when the ice would melt off Chilkoot Lake.
The idea was a blatant rip-off of the Nenana Ice Classic, Alaska’s only sanctioned, statewide lottery, an event held since 1917. People pay $2.50 and guess the day, hour and minute the ice goes out on the Tanana River, as measured by a tripod frozen into the ice.
Only that Ted’s proposal was to put a wrecked car out on the lake and sell chances on when it would sink, an idea with way more eye appeal than Nenana’s tripod pulling on a string attached to a timer. Ted understood fun, and that the genuine article often comes at someone else’s expense. In the case of his idea, it was the fish. Alaska Department of Fish and Game said a permit for dropping a junker into the lake was not going to happen.
Ted’s proposal comes to mind with recent news that folks in Kenai are considering their own ice classic, using a two-ton block of ice instead of a car. They were hoping to use a tripod, but ran into their own permitting problems involving disturbance of king salmon habitat. (If there is a heaven, somewhere on a barstool there, Ted is rolling his eyes.)
As one of a few dozen local suckers who buy tickets in the Nenana classic each year, I propose we follow up on Ted’s idea. Why should we send our hard-earned money out-of-town when we can gamble at home?
Instead of Chilkoot Lake, our classic could be held in the parking lot at Third Avenue and Main Street. Blake Ward’s Chevy Malibu was stuck in ice there all winter, the victim of a seep that surfaces at the back of the lot and can become a glacier during cold spells. We could probably get a car frozen in there every year and place bets on when it would budge.
In fact, it may not be too late for a classic this year. The ice is gone, but the Malibu’s still there. Blake has lost the keys. We could sell tickets guessing the minute, hour and day he finds them.
Hey, it’s a long winter. Fun grows thin. Some cash on the line can make the unknowns more interesting.