The charismatic Canadian professional ice road trucker, Alex Debogorski, best known for being the star of History Channel’s reality TV series, “Ice Road Truckers,” which premiered in June 2007, has been one of the most dedicated advocates of the trucking industry, long after the show ended in November 2017. His more than 40 years of trucking experience has been documented in his autobiographical book entitled “King of the Road: Tales from a Legendary Ice Road Trucker.” Unlike others who loved to travel to one of the coldest regions in the world for thrill-seeking adventures, he belonged to the group of people who did it to earn money by delivering tools, heavy pieces of machinery, and other supplies to the Northwest Territories of Canada.
- 1 His life before the TV show, “Ice Road Truckers”
- 2 His Life as a reality-TV star
- 2.1 He misses his privacy
- 2.2 Things he couldn’t do without while on the road
- 2.3 His go-to food on the road
- 2.4 Winter-proofing Alex
- 2.5 Close calls and accidents
- 2.6 The real reason behind his one-episode appearance in the IRT spinoff series
- 2.7 The real reason he said ‘no’ to the spinoff series, “IRT: Deadliest Roads in South America”
- 3 Interesting facts and rumors about the TV Series
- 4 His life after the show ended – What happened to Alex Debogorski?
His life before the TV show, “Ice Road Truckers”
Alex Debogorski was born on 4 August 1953 in Berwyn, Alberta, to Stanley and Irene Debogorski who met in London during World War II.
Have a great Thursday everyone pic.twitter.com/KyHYc4wMFs
— Alex Debogorski (@IceRoadAlex) March 25, 2021
His father was a Polish Red Beret, a paratrooper for the Polish Parachute Brigade, while his English mother was a college student at that time. His Catholic parents immigrated to Canada after the war, and settled in a small farming community. He’s the oldest of five siblings, with Greg, Simone, Richard and Mark.
Life wasn’t easy for Alex as they were poor, living in a small log cabin in the woods although they enjoyed the basic necessities of life. The clothes given to him as a child were mostly for practical reasons, which were to keep a person warm from the cold, but were never fashionable. He didn’t even have proper running shoes, so he would oftentimes trip during gym class or when the floors were slippery. Since he was big for his age at that time, some kids bullied him for being different and clumsy; they would spit on him and laugh at him particularly whenever he would do things out of the box, since he grew up on a farm.
When he got older, his size and his experience in living on a farm had become an advantage when he joined the Canadian Air Cadets. He easily won a bush survival course, finishing first among the cadets as he was trained to build a fire, use the ax, and skin animals early on in life.
Alex attended the University of Alberta, but dropped out after a year because he married his childhood sweetheart, Louise, at the age of 19 in 1972 and became a father to their eldest child, Shielo. To make ends meet, he worked odd jobs, as a taxi driver, coal miner, oil rigger, and bouncer at a club – he had his nose broken several times. Alex also spent time prospecting for diamonds and gold just like some of the people from his hometown. As a Catholic, he was a lay minister, and would do voluntary work in prisons.
He never thought that his life was about to change, the day he volunteered his services when someone asked for a truck driver while he was working in a tire shop.
He just thought of the money he would earn, even if he didn’t have any experience driving anything heavier than a car. At the time he got into truck driving, a couple of drivers would die every year, but it didn’t faze him. It was an accepted possibility for ice road truckers – some people would even bet on who wouldn’t come home after a trip. He said he also pushed things to the limit, and did some risky jobs but survived it all, when some of his colleagues who did similar jobs had died.
His Life as a reality-TV star
In 2016, Original Productions went looking for professional ice truckers who would star in the new reality TV show that they would be producing for History Channel, called “Ice Road Truckers.” It was the same people who were behind another hit reality TV series, “Deadliest Catch,” aired on Discovery Channel. The production crew said that many from the trucking community and other locals that they interviewed recommended Alex as the best person for the TV show so they tried looking for him.
However, at that time he was stuck on a boat for almost a week due to a huge storm that passed over the Great Slave Lake. Fortunately, the producers’ interest was already piqued, and they waited for his return. He was the last person to be interviewed, but after talking to him, they immediately knew that they had a series.
For the first season of the show, Alex along with five other truck drivers traversed the icy roads in some of the coldest places in the world – Canada’s Northwest Territories and the Alaskan region. They were always pressed for time, as they delivered goods to the most isolated communities on a limited timeframe. During their journeys, they had encountered many of the usual obstacles, both man-made and natural calamities,.
When the teaser of the show came out, it caught everyone’s interest, and when an episode was aired, it gained a loyal following not only locally but internationally. The TV show’s premiere set the record for most-viewed original telecast in cable TV history at that time.
People were hooked as they watched the drivers navigate their heavy equipment over the ice roads and frozen waterways, wondering if the ice was thick enough to hold them up. Among all the truck drivers in the show, Alex was considered one of the most interesting, as he never ran out of stories about his life on and off the road. He’s tough and smart, but with a lot of heart, and his presence on the show somehow brought stability. The series had all sorts of drama, but Alex’s personality kept everything grounded.
He misses his privacy
Documentary-reality-styled TV shows are quite different from a scripted show, as the camera crew would be everywhere, documenting all that’s happening day in and day out. Alex wasn’t annoyed by them because he was aware that it’s part of the deal, saying that he only had a problem with the camera crew when they wanted to record him nude when he took a bath. He just missed his privacy, as he felt that he couldn’t have an honest conversation with himself, and the fact that he enjoyed his own company on the road.
With the camera rolling, it would capture every conversation that he had, even those he didn’t want anyone to hear about.
Things he couldn’t do without while on the road
Each driver had his own preferences but Alex wouldn’t go out on the snowy roads without checking his essential list. His main requirement when delivering goods was that his truck must have room for him to move around after he’s bulked up in his winter gear. He’s 6ft 3ins tall, and he wanted a truck tall enough for him to stand up inside, but did not care about the brand of the vehicle. The list also included strong headlights, a reliable heater, diff locks for extra traction, and belly tarps for the machine. Alex would also never leave home without an emergency kit that had a propane torch, and essential tools including chains.
His go-to food on the road
Ice road truckers would start their engines at end of January, and would turn them off at the end of March. People often wondered how much food they took on the road – Alex’s main go-to food was three rolls of garlic sausage, and lots of water.
It’s not only the truck that should be winter-proof, but also the driver, and Alex knew from experience how dangerously cold it could be. He said that technology had been a great help in providing them with lighter yet protective clothing; even underwear garments were made using wind-blocking materials, which easily offered more comfort to the wearer. He used two balaclavas whenever the temperature hit minus 50 degrees, with the wind blowing hard on the face. Bringing lots of clothing options during a trip was a must, especially wearing the right socks.
Close calls and accidents
Taking a huge truck with a heavy load and driving it on a frozen body of water without the right skills would undoubtedly end in disaster. During his 40 years of ice road truck driving, he had never gone through the ice, but it didn’t mean that he didn’t have any close calls. He had one collision when he lightly tapped another vehicle, as due to the extreme weather conditions, even when he hit the brakes, the truck wouldn’t stop as quickly as he wanted, so the other vehicle went straight into a snowbank.
The good thing was that there was no real damage to either vehicle, or the drivers.
In the second season of his show, he was pulled out not because he had an accident but because he had a pulmonary embolism. It was all caught on TV when Alex needed to be medically evacuated, as his heart rate rose to 135 and he started coughing up blood. It was later identified that he was taking the wrong dosage of his hypothyroid pill. Alex was hospitalized for 10 days, but it took him another two months to get his body back to normal.
The real reason behind his one-episode appearance in the IRT spinoff series
Due to the overwhelming success of their show, History Channel produced the spin-off series called “Ice Road Truckers: Deadliest Roads” in 2010. He was supposed to be included in the regular cast, but things went south when someone ran into his truck intentionally and the TV crew played it out as if Alex didn’t want to be there in the Himalayas. After that episode, he was allowed to leave and attend a previously scheduled event in England called Peterborough Truck Fest.
Some recent studio portrait work with one of the best-known Yellowknifers: Alex Debogorski, one of the stars of History Channel's Emmy-nominated Ice Road Truckers.
However, when he flew back to India where the crew was filming, the local government wouldn’t let him in due to the kind of visa he possessed. That was the only reason why he never appeared again in the spin-off series.
The real reason he said ‘no’ to the spinoff series, “IRT: Deadliest Roads in South America”
Not enough money. Alex said the money offered on the table wasn’t enough to make him take the risks, especially since the location wasn’t his turf. He knew the danger in their line of work, and felt that he deserved something more. The spin-off series only lasted for two seasons, and Alex confidently said that it was because he wasn’t there.
Interesting facts and rumors about the TV Series
Was the show scripted or not?
Alex said that the risks and danger of going out on the road were real. However, truth be told, if driving the truck was the only thing shown on TV, no one would watch it. The drama between drivers and those situational conflicts were intentionally added. Some of the things they showed in the series were informational, but most of them were for entertainment.
A radio interview that I did recently on Truckers Network Radio Showhttps://t.co/b2U0rFt5nW
— Alex Debogorski (@IceRoadAlex) May 16, 2021
It was sometimes negative for the drivers, who came out not as their real personas since the production crew just showed who they wanted them to be. Alex candidly shared that no one could tell if any one of them would come out as good, bad, or extremely annoying after the footage was edited.
The show was inspired by John Denison
The docu-reality style series was inspired by the book called “Denison’s Ice Road” written by Edith Iglauer. It was about John Denison’s exploits on how he built and perfected ice roads to make truck freighting more doable, and which benefited the mining camps at that time. He wasn’t the one who pioneered truck freighting in the Northwest Territories, but without his ingenuity, ice truckers today would have a much harder time moving during the winter months.
He’s close with Lisa Kelly
Not all the male truckers were good to Lisa Kelly, who was the only female driver in the show. Whether their irritation brought by her inclusion was real or contrived to create more drama, Alex couldn’t forget the time when the other drivers were downright mean to her. She offered help in attaching chains to their trucks as she was already done with hers, but the other drivers just sneered at her and some even got mad.
When Lisa asked him if he needed another hand, he immediately said yes.
Up to this day, they would call on each other to catch up, and would sometimes do events together. Alex said he liked her, but wouldn’t like to get stuck in an elevator with her.
His life after the show ended – What happened to Alex Debogorski?
When the show ended in 2017, fans often wondered what happened to Alex, who was the only truck driver in the show to appear in the entire 11 seasons. Due to his popularity, he was a staple guest on most truck events, such as trade shows in several parts of the world. He also had a business manager who handled all of it, including his schedule, endorsement deals, contract signing, and even fan meetings. However, due to the travel restrictions brought on by the pandemic, most scheduled events were canceled.
While everyone’s busy trying to beat Covid-19, Alex still drives the truck out there on the ice road, delivering supplies during the winter months of February and March. In 2021, his ice road journey ended on 3 April, which was a little later than usual.
He posted on his Facebook account that ‘I did 28 trips, 27 super bees to Diavik and one van to Ekati. We started late according to their plan.’ He also shared that they had successfully gone through 10 days of stormy weather, but were able to deliver all the supplies.
He became the ambassador for championing safety issues in the trucking community, and he used his larger-than-life celebrity status in spreading positivity around. Alex would always remind everyone of the importance of the trucking industry to the world. Without it, some people wouldn’t have the basic essentials, as well as the much-needed medical tools and pieces of machinery in some parts of the world.
His son, Andrew Debogorski, who had been diagnosed with advanced ALS in 2017, died in January 2019 at the age of 32 in a house fire. Andrew’s wife, Myriam was able to get their two children to safety but failed to get back to her husband, who was unable to walk due to his condition. Alex was devastated when he heard the news, but as a devout Christian, he accepted it as God’s will.