by Phillip Manning ~ June 11th, 2013
The love affair that reality television producers have with Alaska is well-known. The early Alaska-centric shows focus largely on difficult or dangerous jobs in the Last Frontier, such as crab fishing, gold mining, or flying bush planes. Since 2009’s “The Alaska Experiment,” now known as the Out of the Wild, series, more shows are focusing on simply surviving some of the more inhospitable conditions Alaska has to offer. National Geographic’s “Ultimate Survival: Alaska,” falls somewhere in between, as it focuses on the narrative elements of an expedition that takes the participants from the Arctic Circle all the way into Southeast Alaska, showcasing their survival and backcountry skills along the way.
One of the show’s focuses is that it does not take ordinary people and place them in extreme situations in the backcountry. Instead, the expedition members are all Alaska residents with backgrounds in the outdoors and wilderness survival. One of those Alaska residents is Talkeetna’s Willi Prittie. Willi is an accomplished climber and mountain guide with over four decades of experience. By his own admission, Willi is not much of a TV watcher, in fact, he doesn’t own a television, and he was somewhat apprehensive about the idea of being on a reality show at first. His initial fears were largely put to rest when he met the other members of the cast, however.
Filming took place over two months in the fall of 2012. During the filming, the only time the cast spent under a roof was for the occasional transfer between bush planes when flying to the next drop-off.
The uninterrupted field-work was not a problem for the cast, and led them to build friendships through their shared challenges.
The second season of Ultimate Survival: Alaska is currently filming. Because his day-job is organizing groups for Denali expeditions, Willi’s workload meant he could not participate. He does manage to watch the current season whenever possible, and since he doesn’t own a television, he has scouted out which local restaurants carry the network and gathers with local friends to watch the show. If the timing and the circumstances are right, Willi says he would consider participating in the show again.
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