When he was 12 years old, Alaskan Parker Schnabel, now 19, of Discovery’s Friday hit “Gold Rush” saved a life.
According to JuneauEmpire.com, back in the winter of 2006, Schnabel was flying with his beloved grandfather, miner John Schnabel, when he spied Jay Blair, a snowboarder who had gotten lost and spent a night outdoors in frigid conditions. Too exhausted to even wave for help, Blair struck rescue gold when Schnabel spotted him from the air and alerted the pilot.
So even as a pre-teen, Schnabel had a combination of luck and the ability to see what others might miss.
Now on his own, away from his grandpa’s advice — and having invested his college fund to mine this summer in the Klondike with mentor Tony Beets — Schnabel is having to call upon his skills and acquire more to dig success out of the earth in the far North.
“Sometimes it was a struggle,” he tells Zap2it. “It’s tough to get used to a new place and being way from my family, being away from my grandpa. It was a lot of support I didn’t have, both mentally and just from a mining standpoint. We didn’t have that knowledge and resources.
“But considering all that, I feel like we did pretty well. I’m comfortable with the way we ended our season.”
Asked what he learned, Schnabel says, “The biggest thing I learned this summer was how to just go for it, not worry about the consequences of what could go wrong, just striking out and going for something, whether it has to do with going up to the Klondike or dealing with people.
“I’ve always been scared that somebody was going to quit if we treated them poorly, or I was scared to fire somebody if they weren’t working out. This summer, this all went away. If guys weren’t performing, we fired them. If guys weren’t doing their job, we’d tell them.
“We wouldn’t worry too much about them quitting because there was too much on the line to let somebody screw it all up.”
For now, Schnabel is putting off the notion of college. He’s considered studying both engineering and finance, but for right now, he’s keeping his focus on mining.
“I had to grow up,” he says. “I didn’t have the choice to not know what I wanted to do or or be lazy or be a stoner or whatever it is they’re doing. If I was going to make this work, I had to man up and figure out exactly what I wanted to do, figure out what motivates me, and make sure every day that we make money, because there was too much on the line not to.
“I have a lot of friends who’ve even graduated college, and they don’t know what they want to do. That scares me a little bit, because I don’t want to be that way.”
Of course, Schnabel is also on television, and sometimes that means dealing with issues that wouldn’t normally come his way.
“Gold Rush” executive producer Christo Doyle, on the “Gold Rush” pre-show called “Gold Rush: The Dirt,” has questioned the nature of the relationship between Schnabel and fellow miner Todd Hoffman, whose quest for gold in answer to the slumping economy led to the creation of the show. The implication is that the two miners don’t respect each other, but Schnabel disputes that.
“It wasn’t my idea,” he says of the “feud.” “But Todd and I have always had our differences. I have a lot of respect for him. There wouldn’t be ‘Gold Rush’ without him. He does a lot of things better than I do.
“That being said, we’ve had our issues. I guess some people are interested in putting them out in the middle of the street.”
It is received wisdom in television that conflict makes for a good story.
“So they tell me,” says Schnabel.
With the twin pressures of gold mining and TV celebrity, Schnabel and his film crew found ways to blow off steam. While Schnabel wants to make more use of his Instagram account — user name “goldrushparker,” similar to his Twitter handle, which is @goldrush_parker — he and the British film crew became big fans of Snapchat, which allows users to create photos and videos, send them to friends, who have a brief time to view them before they disappear.
“That was bad,” Schnabel says. “There were a lot of practical pranks and jokes, some, I wouldn’t say mean things, but quite embarrassing and humiliating things were done in the name of getting a good Snapchat.
“We even built an entire snowman and plowed into it with one of the crew cars. I believe we cracked the window, because there was a ChapStick in his head for a nose — all just to get a good Snapchat.”