Freeze! ‘Life Below Zero’ May Not be as Real As You Think

Gabrielle Bernardini - Author

Mar. 27 2019, Updated 11:06 a.m. ET

how real is life below zero
Source: National Geographic

Survival of the fittest is the name of the game on the National Geographic reality television series, Life Below Zero. Viewers are transported to the Alaskan wilderness where the cast members on the show give you an inside look at how they live. 

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Surrounded by nothing but the great Alaskan wild, which includes extreme temperatures (60 degrees below zero to be exact), wild animals that are ready to kill at any moment, and surviving with nothing but the bare necessities, fans are taken on an epic journey.

The show initially aired in 2013, and though audiences may be captivated by people who choose to live in the Alaskan outdoors, is Life Below Zero as "real" as it claims to be? While the dangers of the great outdoors are very much real, some of the series and stunts have been said to be scripted by the producers.

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life below zero real
Source: National Geographic

Sue Aikens on 'Life Below Zero.'

According to Anchorage Daily News, star Susan Aikens filed a lawsuit against a producer after she was allegedly forced to perform dangerous stunts for narratives made up by the producer, which resulted in her being injured. 

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Susan claimed in the suit that she was forced to camp at a spot that she was unfamiliar with, and was told she would have to travel there by snow machine, instead of using an Argo ATV. She also alleged that she was not able to take her pet dog with her, which she was upset about because the "series is not supposed to be scripted."

The lawsuit also states that after Susan suggested wanting to go hunt, the producer told the reality star to travel alongside the river “into the overflow.” Though Susan argued with the producer, she eventually gave in and was injured after being thrown from the snow machine. 

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The crew reportedly tried to help Susan, by taking off her some of heavy clothes, but this exposed the plaintiff to temperatures below zero. Not only was she apparently severely injured, the producer did not call for a medical transport right away, and when he finally did, he reportedly instructed the pilot to land at the very end of the mile-long runway. According to the lawsuit, this was "to film how much pain plaintiff was suffering, and to film plaintiff walking injured."

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In the show's defense, the crews behind the cameras also have to endure the sub-zero climate to capture all the action, which is a feat in itself. And it turns out, they sometimes have to deal with stubborn reality stars. "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," Glenn Villeneuve explained. "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." 

So, where is Life Below Zero filmed?

After 10 season, Life Below Zero has filmed all over Alaska — following its stars to the most remote regions of The Last Frontier. For example, Sue currently lives alone in an isolated camp that is by the Kavik River, which is almost 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle while Glenn lives between Fairbanks and his cabin in Brooks Ranges. Then there is Andy Bassich, who lives with his 37 sled dogs along the Yukon River. 

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andy bassich life below zero
Source: National Geographic

Is the cold worth it? 

According to, the cast members of Life Below Zero are said to have a total income of $1 million combined from the TV show. Sue alone is estimated to be worth $500,000 — so it looks like it is definitely worth it (scripted or not). 

You can catch new episodes of Life Below Zero on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. EST on National Geographic. 

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