Day 1 of the new Ice Road season begins. There are 6,000 loads of freight to move in just 12 weeks to the oil camps of Alaska's North Slope. The 400 plus miles stretch from Fairbanks to the remote outpost of Deadhorse, and is fraught with harrowing danger from steep mountain ice, to frozen tundra and the treacherous ice roads of the Arctic Ocean. From unexpected weather, virtual whiteouts and treacherous terrain, this is by far the most death defying route to date. So few drivers are qualified--or willing--to brave this perilous journey. Dispatchers are forced to look as far as Canada for Ice Road experts. Enter Hugh 'The Polar Bear' Rowland and Alex Debogorski, the two titans and archrivals of the Canadian Ice Roads. But can they cut it in Alaska?
On Alaska's North Slope, a new ice road season has just begun. Carlile Transportation has less than three months to haul 2,000 loads from Fairbanks to Deadhorse--the gateway to the Prudhoe Bay oil fields. Here, temperatures drop to 70 below, the terrain is some of the most unforgiving in the world, and the race to bring home the big bucks is heating up. Trucker Lisa Kelly faces two hurdles--she's female and she's young, but she'll prove her worth with a run in record time. Jack Jesse must deal with the perils of hauling a load of 130-foot pipe. Rookie Tim Freeman struggles with challenging mechanical problems that make him question his skills and his self-confidence. Back in Fairbanks, Hugh Rowland and Alex Debogorski complete a week-long haul road boot camp to see if they've got what it takes to survive North America's most deadly road.
It's three weeks into the winter season in Northern Alaska, and Carlile Transportation has only moved 500 of the 2,000 loads it needs to transport to the Prudhoe Bay oil fields. The clock is ticking and an arctic storm is brewing. Hugh and Alex are joined by safety instructors as they embark on their frisky first trip to Prudhoe Bay. In the dead of night, on a hill so slick they call it 'oil spill,' Jack Jesse has to make a moral decision between helping a stranded passenger vehicle whose passengers could freeze to death or potentially losing his load in the effort to save them. Lisa Kelly requests her first ever 'heavy haul'--a load that's anything oversized or overweight--and when she gets her wish, she may regret it. Tim Freeman makes his second attempt to navigate the ice road, but this time, the rookie runs smack into a horrible storm.
A massive storm blows in and all traffic on the ice road comes to a standstill. And if wheels aren't turning, no one's earning. George, Tim and Lisa take shelter at Coldfoot, the only truck stop on the road. But this season's heavy haul ace, Jack Jesse, tries to outrun the storm. Hugh and Alex start out on their second runs. While Alex is plagued with mechanical problems, Hugh heads out for the ice road, but his lack of familiarity with Carlile trucks almost causes him to have an accident. When George and Tim reach Atigun Pass, they face deep snow and icy roads more treacherous than ever before. And it's slow going for Lisa because she's hauling her first ever wide-load and must give way to oncoming traffic. When she reaches Atigun Pass, blowing snow reduces visibility to almost zero. But her troubles are far from over. After she crosses the pass, her pilot truck breaks down, and she must continue her journey alone through the brutal Arctic storm.
Another winter storm drops nearly a foot of fresh, new snow, obscuring the road south. Veteran driver Jack and the less experienced Lisa are determined to not lose any more time or money this season. They set out for Fairbanks before the snowplows even arrive. Further north on the haul road, that same blizzard causes a major collision near the icy hill called 'Slope Mountain.' Tow truck driver Ben Krsykowski carefully pulls a truck cab and trailer back up on the road--knowing that the slightest spark could set off a massive explosion. Canadian ice road truckers Hugh and Alex try to complete their first solo runs. Hugh is ahead in this race--he reached Deadhorse the day before--while Alex continues to have mechanical problems. After safely reaching Fairbanks, Jack takes off again with a towering pipe rack--a load that barely clears the traffic lights in town. Finally reaching his destination with this precarious freight--he has a close encounter with a 1,100-pound moose.
Lisa Kelly auditions to be the first woman to break into the elite Heavy Haul division by commanding a convoy of pilot cars while hauling 80-foot sections of wide-gauge pipe. Having spun out before with a much shorter load, she faces a daunting task involving a 600 mile run through the Brooks Range mountains, over the wind-blasted North Slope, and across the ice road of the Arctic Ocean itself. Hugh 'The Polar Bear' Rowland aims for an even bigger title--that of master of all of North American ice roads. But Hugh's archrival Alex Debogorski is matching him shift-for-shift. In an epic five hundred mile race that runs from the truck yards of Fairbanks to the shores of the Arctic Ocean, Hugh and Alex duel for North American bragging rights. Tim Freeman's goal is a more universal one--survival. He wants to finish his rookie season with his truck, and himself, in one piece.
The race is on to make it to Prudhoe before a wicked storm turns fierce. After riding out the previous night's storm in Coldfoot, Tim and George decide to push on, despite the dire forecast. Twenty-five miles from Deadhorse, they run straight into the storm and are forced to slam through huge snowdrifts to make it to safety. Lisa also braves the weather so she can see her husband in Prudhoe Bay, but gets stopped at Coldfoot because the road north is closed. Hugh departs Prudhoe heading south with his convoy partner Phil. Despite a cloud of ice fog, they make it through the worst of the storm and celebrate at the top of Atigun Pass by barbequing in the snow and cooking up a feast of caribou. Several hours behind Hugh, veteran driver but newcomer to the roads of Northern Alaska, Alex is also heading south with veteran driver Jack. Jack's displeasure with the 'rookie's' mistakes forces Alex to make the trip to Coldfoot alone.
A deadly combination of unpredictable weather on the North Slope has made Atigun Pass more dangerous than ever. Record snowfall mixed with now warmer temperatures has turned this wicked pass into a devil's slide--slippery than ever and at all time high for avalanche risk. Heavy-hauling ace Jack Jesse is first out of the gate with one of the most critical loads of the season--two 46,000-pound tanks worth 0,000. These loads will be a challenge. Jack calls on friend and fellow heavy-haul expert Carey Hall to help out. But disaster strikes when one of the giant tankers slips off the forklift and slams into the ground. Will their assignment be over before it's even begun? After a chance meeting in Coldfoot, Alex and Hugh compare load counts. Hugh is one load ahead and Alex is eager to catch up to him. He is the first out of the gates for Deadhorse, but unexpectedly runs into trouble on Atigun Pass when another trucker tries to pass him.
With just three weeks to go, everyone is pushing it to the limit to get the freight to Deadhorse before the season ends. Lisa rushes to Carlile to pick up her next load. She's convoying north with Jack Jesse. On the road, he shows her how to avoid spinning out by shifting gears. Hugh and Phil have been doing short turns all week to get storm-delayed freight from Coldfoot to Deadhorse. On today's trip, Hugh discovers that he and Alex are not the only fierce competitors on the ice road. Phil is battling with his nemesis at Carlile, Drew---they get into a heated debate on the CB about who has the most trips this month. Since Hugh's logs are same as Phil's, he thinks they will win this one. Tim and George are delayed again in Fairbanks because George's truck is in the shop. But when they finally get on the road, it's Tim's truck that develops a fatal electrical problem. The rookie is severely disappointed and has to turn back again while George carries on north by himself.
There's only two weeks left to pull in the big bucks and get all the loads to the oil fields. Hugh's impatience with his trainer driver Phil's slow pace nearly causes him to spin out on one of the steep slopes of the Atigun Pass--a place where the slightest misstep can send a truck over the cliff. In Fairbanks, Lisa, who has a reputation for fast driving, decides to convoy on her next load with veteran George Spears and rookie Tim Freeman, who refer to themselves as 'Slow and Slower.' On the road, Lisa spins out, forcing her to back down a hill--while traffic in both directions comes to a complete standstill. Alex delivers a load to Deadhorse, equaling Hugh Rowland's load count. Determined to take the lead, Alex immediately takes a back haul assignment, but the load isn't strapped securely and threatens to fall off.
With only two weeks left of the winter season, the race is on to deliver the remaining loads before the ice roads melt away. But this late in the game, truckers are besieged by mechanical breakdowns and a volcanic eruption in Southern Alaska has put unexpected pressure on this remote road. The volcanic eruption has also shutdown Alaska's fuel refineries, leaving Deadhorse extremely short on fuel. Without diesel, the generators that supply power and heat are likely to run dry. The impending crisis prompts Carlile Trucking to give the first load of diesel reserves to their ace trucker, Jack. He races up the ice with the flammable load, only to be put to the test when an oncoming truck heads straight for him on a hairpin corner. Up in Deadhorse, rookie Lisa assists a stranded airline passenger with a ride south only to be left high and dry herself with a major breakdown--in negative thirty. Stranded with no heat, their only hope is rescue.
The truckers and their rigs are running ragged as they race to pull in the last loads. Lisa can't get out of the Carlile yard in Fairbanks--the trailer they've assigned her has a massive air leak. To stay in the running she accepts a new load: a van full of high explosives. The harsh icy conditions southbound on Atigun Pass cause Jack to spin out for the first time this season. George and Tim barely make it through Atigun themselves, but by doing so, Tim gains much needed experience, and George feels that Tim is ready to drive solo. Alex heads north from Fairbanks with his convoy partner Ron, whose truck breaks down with an oil line leak. Alex and Ron wait overnight for a part to arrive, and then must fix the truck themselves by the side of the road. As Hugh heads south, he finds fellow Canadian Alex in the coffee shop and the two old pals (and competitors) have a brief moment to catch up before both hit the road again.
As the final 72 hours of the Ice Road season tick away, legendary driver George Spears calls it a career, Lisa Kelly makes a harrowing 300-mile run with no brakes, the rivalry between Alex Debogorski and Hugh 'The Polar Bear' Rowland comes down to the final load, and polar bears--real ones--shut down the Ice Road in front of Jack Jessee, as the 'Dash for the Cash' comes down to the wire.