If you’ve ever dreamed of escaping from the rat race and going somewhere you can live a simpler life, more in tune with nature, then Life Below Zero is the reality show for you.
Unlike other reality shows, like Alaskan Bush People (which feels very scripted and unrealistic), there’s no question that what you see on Life Below Zero is authentic. The show follows the lives of people who live in the most remote parts of Alaska and shows viewers just what it takes to live a subsistence lifestyle. These folks don’t have building supply stores and grocery shops anywhere close to them so they do almost everything for themselves – from building shelters to hunting and gathering food and everything in-between.
The cast of Life Below Zero includes outdoor survivalists Erik and Martha May Salitan, river camp owner Sue Aikens, dog mushers Andy and Jessie, nomadic hunters Chip and Agnes Hailstone, and survival expert Glenn Villeneuve and showcases their everyday struggles as they strive to survive – and thrive – in some of the harshest conditions.
Have you ever wondered about life behind the scenes of the show? Do you want to know more about these incredible people? If you answered yes, then we are sure you are going to enjoy these 15 facts about Life Below Zero.
15. Sue Aikens Sued The Production Crew
If Life Below Zero has taught us anything it’s that living in the remote Alaskan wilderness requires vigilance. Sue Aikens, who lives in an isolated river camp knows this well and always ensures that she takes steps to keep herself safe. But being safe doesn’t always make for exciting TV and earlier this year it emerged that she was suing the show’s BBC Worldwide production crew claiming that they forced her to engage in dangerous shoots which resulted in injury. She claims that they forced her to drive a snow machine across a frozen river despite her concerns, which resulted in her being thrown from the machine and suffering a broken collarbone. She also claimed that she was coerced into exposing her face despite a 72-degree-below-zero wind-chill because “the audience needed to see her better”, which resulted in Sue suffering from frostbite.
14. Glenn Villeneuve Was Not Keen To Appear On The Show
When the producers of Life Below Zero heard about a man named Glenn Villeneuve, they knew that he would be perfect for the show. Glenn had a reputation in Fairbanks for being a survival specialist who often spends up to 15 months living off the land in the Alaskan wilderness. But when they approached him, he was not that keen to do the show, in fact, Glenn had never seen a reality show in his life before. He didn’t like the idea of a film crew following him around, but after he considered their offer, he decided to go for it but not for the extra money it would bring. Glenn is, in fact, a self-made man, which allows him to live his dream lifestyle.
13. What Happened To Kate Rorke After She Left The Show
Many fans of Life Below Zero were not surprised at all when Kate Rorke left the show (and her partner Andy), in fact, many of them questioned why it took her so long to leave. Watching the show, it was hard to believe that a beautiful, articulate woman like Kate would stick with a man who seemed to have glaring control and anger issues, and constantly berated her. But we are pleased to report that since leaving the Yukon, Kate has been staying with friends and family and is slowly rebuilding her life. She’s also confirmed what many of us already knew – that she was a victim of domestic abuse. Her plans for the future include writing a book about emotional abuse and helping other women who find themselves trapped in similar situations.
12. Chip Hailstone Was Found Guilty Of Perjury
Behind the scenes of Life Below Zero, Chip Hailstone has been fighting a grueling legal battle. It’s hard to imagine this mild-mannered man being involved in any kind of wrongdoing but it’s true. Back in July 2011 one of his family members had an altercation with another resident, which resulted in the state troopers being called. During the interview, Chip alleged that the state trooper physically assaulted his teenage daughter and left his family in fear of bodily harm. But the court sided with the state trooper and Chip was found guilty on four charges of perjury. He has since filed papers to have the charges overturned or be granted a new trial based on legal irregularities that occurred at the first one. “I didn’t do anything wrong,” he said.
11. Sue Is Not Supposed To Be Feeding Those Foxes
On Life Below Zero, Sue is often seen befriending and even feeding the small foxes that live close to her camp. She says that the foxes provide her with socialization, seeing as how the closest neighbors she has are about 350 miles away, and while it all looks very cute for the show she is actually breaking the law. Alaskan state law explicitly states that it is illegal to “intentionally feed a moose, deer, elk, sheep, bear, wolf, coyote, fox, wolverine, or exotic wildlife, or intentionally leave human food, animal food, mineral supplements, or garbage in a manner that attracts these animals.” But it doesn’t seem that the troopers are all that interested in what Sue is getting up to out there on the tundra and with all the effort it takes to get to her we don’t think they will intervene anytime soon.
10. Fans Threatened To Boycott The Show If They Kept Andy
While Andy does have a few fans here and there, he’s probably one of the least likeable characters on Life Below Zero. His tantrums, pessimism, and downright cruelty, quickly tired out viewers and raised the question of whether or not he was abusing his partner of ten years, Kate. From the footage we saw of him interacting with her on the show, it certainly looked that way. He constantly berated her, screaming and shouting, and it got old real fast. Most fans were not surprised at all when Kate suddenly left him and disappeared from the show, but they were shocked to see Andy return a few episodes later as if nothing had happened. Angry viewers swarmed the show’s Facebook page expressing their disgust and threatening to boycott the show completely unless he was removed.
9. What Glenn Does For A Living
On the show, we’ve heard Glenn talking about how he did not start living in the wilderness until he was 35 years old, simply because he did not have the money to do so. But how does he actually earn a living? He answered this on his Facebook fan page saying, “My business activities, like my family life, have not been covered on the show so it is understandable that many viewers are curious as to how I make a living. I have been involved in managing and investing in real estate for many years. I also have investments in the stock market, and for the past 4 1/2 years my television appearances have been a significant source of income as well.” So now you know!
8. Staying At Sue Aikens’ Kivik River Camp Would Cost You Around $4500 A Week
If you’re a big fan of Life Below Zero you’ve probably wondered (as we have) how much it would cost to stay at Sue’s remote Kivik River Camp. Located 197 miles from the Arctic Circle and just a few miles from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge her camp offers fishing and hunting trips from June to September, as well as selling aviation gas (which costs around $10 a gallon when available). But this one of a kind experience doesn’t come cheap as everything needs to be flown into the camp. Besides from the cost of actually reaching this location a weeklong stay at the Kivik River Camp would set you back about $4500 per a person, or around $350 per person, per night. So if you dream of visiting this location we suggest we start saving.
7. The Meaning Of Agnes’ Chin Tattoo
The Hailstones are one of the most popular families on Life Below Zero. Their nomadic subsistence lifestyle is very different from what most people are used to but they seem so happy with it that it’s hard not to be a little jealous. The head of their family is Agnes, a native Inupiaq, and there seems to be little this incredible woman can’t do. But many viewers who watch the show want to know more about the lines tattooed on her chin. Well, these “chin stripes” are usually tattooed as part of the ritual of maturity in Eskimo women as a signal that they have reached puberty. It’s believed that the thin lines indicate that the woman is serious and ready to work hard. The practice dates back centuries but was banned by missionaries in the early 19th century. Now, thanks to women like Agnes, the “stripes” are making a comeback.
6. Glenn Villeneuve Has A Family
Although they are never featured on the show, Glenn Villeneuve does have a family. He made the decision not to have them appear on the show as his wife was not interested in being on television and he did not think that it would benefit his young children. Most of his solo adventures are too physically demanding and dangerous for his family to take part in so he prefers to spend time with them at their home in Fairbanks. Glenn splits his time between the wilderness and his home, where he also tends to his business activities, which help to fund his survivalist lifestyle. He has four children and always takes a satellite phone with him during his trips so that he can speak to them on a regular basis.
5. Jessie Holmes Won The Yukon Quest 300
We first got a taste for dog mushing with Andy, but with him losing popularity the fast the show decided to bring in a new face -Jessie Holmes, a man who is also devoted to his dogs. According to his bio on National Geographic’s Life Below Zero page, Jessie was born and raised in the South and left Alabama at the age of 16. He made his way to Alaska by hopping freight trains and has spent the last decade living on his own in the bush and learning survival and subsistence living skills from Alaskan old-timers. In the first few episodes he appeared in, we saw him working almost non-stop to provide food for his dogs and building them shelters. He works hard to train them too and in 2016, all his dedication paid off when he entered the Yukon Quest 300 (a dog mushing competition) for the first time and won it.
4. Andy Bassich’s ‘Life Below Zero’ Bush Lifestyle Camp
There was a time when you could visit Andy and Kate on the Yukon river and have a real life Alaskan adventure, although we’re not sure that he is still offering these packages now that he is on his own again. For those who were interested in learning more about their unique way of life, they offered a vacation package where you could learn about dog sledding and go mushing with Andy’s dogs for around $2500 per person per week or $2000 for couples per week. At one time they also offered a “Life Below Zero Bush Lifestyle Camp” although from what we can gather this is no longer available. After watching the show and seeing how Andy behaves it’s no surprise that people really weren’t too interested in spending any amount of time with him.
3. Life Is Tough For The Cameramen Too
Without the brave cameramen who go out and follow folks like Glenn, Sue, and Jessie we wouldn’t have a show to watch. But what is life really like for these guys? Well, the short answer is – not easy! This is not a job for just anyone as help is often very far away so they need to be able to look out for themselves, and take directions so that they don’t end up endangering their own lives. They usually live in small basic tents close to their subjects and besides from carrying cameras, they are also armed with bear spray and guns. They need to be fit too, as they need to carry all their equipment with them and they need to be able to keep up on hunts and expeditions.
2. Glenn Once Chased A Cameraman Away
Having somebody follow you around, especially when you are a person who enjoys your solitude, can sometimes get a little too much and Glenn actually confessed that he once gave a cameraman his marching orders. He explained, “It was a cameraman I’d never worked with before and we had our differences right from the start. It got to the point where one night, up on a mountain in the dark, I could tolerate him no longer. I told him where to go. A helicopter was sent to whisk him away and we will not be working together again. I’m a big believer in arranging things so that I don’t have to work or spend time with people I don’t like. That is a priority for me.”
1. How Much Are These Reality Stars Worth?
So how much are the stars of Life Below Zero actually worth? Well, it seems that Sue would be close to the top of the pile with her net worth estimated to be well over $500,000, although most of that is invested in the Kivik River Camp. Close behind is Erik and Martha Salitan who also make a healthy living with guiding, hunting trips and their impressive Talarik Creek Fishing Lodge. Their combined estimated net worth is around $400,000. Andy Bassich and the Hailstones are both estimated to be worth around $250,000, thanks to their limited need for money. We can’t be sure of Jessie or Glenn’s net worth’s but when it comes to living your dreams money doesn’t seem to mean that much.
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