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“Gold Rush: Winter’s Fortune” is coming to Discovery this Friday, July 30. This new spinoff series is the precursor of the upcoming season of “Gold Rush” currently in production.

Gold miner Rick Ness has found his feet after a tough year mining in the Upper Duncan cut two years ago. He went into debt, had suffered some personal loss, and was at the edge of throwing it all in up until last year’s season.

Producers have dubbed Ness the “Comeback Kid,” and it is Ness personified. This former high school football star-turned musician-turned miner cleaned up around $2 million in gold last season, even during a global pandemic.

The mining went on despite the coronavirus shut down, and gold prices spiked to record highs. The new season of “Gold Rush” — recognized as Discovery’s most-watched series — is currently in production up north. To get fans excited for the season, Discovery has a new series, “Gold Rush: Winter’s Fortune,” coming to the network July 30.

Ness, formerly Parker Schnabel’s foreman, is his boss and runs a tight crew and a lean operation. Ness has a close history with Schnabel and even went on one of the “Gold Rush: Parker’s Trails” spinoff shows to the Amazon with his former boss. However, he has come a long way on his own now, and off-season he continues to race UTVs with his friends at Evolution Powersports, bringing Chris Kruse and Carl Rosk along for a most excellent ride, both in the vehicles and out working hard in the Yukon.

It is there that Rick is filming the new season. His new love, Leese, and his beloved four-legged “girl” Ruby keep him company as Ness informs the Idaho Press that significant changes are afoot in the crew we have usually seen him assemble.

About “Gold Rush: Winter’s Fortune”

In between season 11 and the filming of season 12, producers were able to shoot new episodes with the core “Gold Rush” crews and former cast member Dave Turin and “White Water” star Dustin Hurt. We see that winter hits hard and the gold-rich ground freezes over fast up in Alaska and the Yukon.

Discovery says: “Soaring gold prices have sparked a land grab, sending some miners scrambling to hunt down new gold-rich claims while others set out to build a new arsenal of earthmoving machines.”

This series shows how these men fight through arctic conditions with snow and subfreezing temperatures that make every task nearly impossible. In “Winter’s Fortune,” the planning is underway as the miners’ sort where to set up in the spring. The end goal is to get the most significant gold hauls with bulletproof methods of mining. But if you are a fan, you know that something always breaks at the most inopportune time.

The series will follow “Comeback Kid” Ness along with “King of the Klondike” Tony Beets, “Master Prospector” Dave Turin, “Greenhorn” Fred Lewis, and “Dare Devil Miner” Dustin Hurt — as they are winter prospecting, purchasing, and permitting in preparation to meet the new season.

As the off-season begins, Ness has some surprising news to share in a bid to convince his crew that he’s got big-picture plans. To succeed again this year, he will take his mining game to new levels with an improved wash plant, drilling system, and monster dozer to achieve a lucrative gold season.

Fans of “Gold Rush” know that former cast member Dave Turin has spent the past three seasons traveling across the country, resurrecting lost mines and finding gold left behind in his spinoff series. And “Gold Rush: White Water” star Dustin Hurt is on a mission to check that his camp has not been destroyed by recent landslides in Haines, Alaska.

Idaho Press spoke to Ness Friday, July 23 from the Yukon, where he reveals that this coming season will shock some long-time viewers.

Idaho Press: You are up in the Yukon, working on the next season of Gold Rush, but you are in a great place right now, personally, from what I see on your Facebook page.

Rick Ness: My new girlfriend. Leese. She’s definitely with me. She is sitting about three feet away from me right now along with [my dog] Ruby. My two favorite girls. They’re sitting with me here on the deck so that I can do this interview.

We met in the off-season, right after I got home. We had never met before, but there were some mutual friends and just happened to see her and talk to her. She didn’t know who I was, what I did, nothing like that, but somehow I managed to talk her into going out on a date with me. And, she’s still here with me.

IP: A couple of years ago, it was quite tough, and I am so happy for you. The new Gold Rush Spinoff series shows you have made such an impact on your friends’ lives.

RN: Yes, well, that, that was my whole goal all along. Right. If you remember from the beginning when I went on my job site and leading up to me going out on my own, I had a lot of success personally, and I understood that I had an opportunity to going out on my own. I had an opportunity to do the same for other people.

I didn’t want to do that for people I didn’t know. I wanted to do that for people I cared about. So that’s why I brought my friends with me, and some have come and gone, and there are no hard feelings. We’re also friends. This isn’t for everybody, but the people I wanted to give a chance to, I gave them the opportunities, and everybody made their own decisions, and [Chris] Kruse stuck with me.

He’s a better fit for this than any of the other friends I brought up here. So, yes, he’s still with me. And I think that a lot of things have changed for him. But I think he’s still enjoying it. That’s for sure.

IP: Tell me about “Gold Rush: Winter’s Fortune” which begins on July 30.

RN: Yes, It’s eight episodes [laughs], and it sounds like some Captain America movie or something to me. I can only speak for my guys and me, but it’s a bit of planning for the coming season for us. And it’s also a bit of blowing off steam because I think you can tell that we also like to have fun. We don’t have a whole lot of time for it during the mining season. So we got to fit a lot of that in the off-season. I think that a lot of people would be interested to see that ‘cause we, as I said, do let our hair down and blow off steam in pretty good ways. I get to do some racing this year again.

IP: The UTV racing was so much fun.

RN: Yes. This is a much higher level this year. I get to race against some of the best in the world. I’m in a desert setting. And in a very next-level car built by Evolution Power Sports. Those guys have become great friends of mine.

I’m looking forward to a lot of racing with them in the future. I’ve already committed to a lot of races coming up this next year, but generally, it turns into with me, Carl [Rosk], and Kruse, and we leave Wisconsin. It’s just a big long road trip where I trick them into thinking that it’s just all fun and games, but we get a lot of work done, too.

And a lot of planning for this. Because since I’ve gone out on my own, this is the first year that I’ve been able to prepare for coming back to the same ground. So I’m on the same ground as last year. And, I plan on being here for a while. It took me a couple of years to find where I wanted to be. Moving [base camp] every year is just a massive waste of time, a huge waste of money, and it’s no way to get ahead, and it’s seriously hampered my planning ability because it was kind of hard to plan for the unknown. So now we know where we’re at, we know what we’re doing.

It gave me a big leg up this year to be able to plan. And also, with the season that we had last year, being such a small group, being so efficient and pulling the kind of gold, $2 million, that we did, it is pretty significant after running costs and everything. I had a pretty substantial amount of money to invest this year. So there are some big things. Some big changes, I would say, machinery-wise and stuff like that. Um, but one that hasn’t changed is that it’s still a minimal crew. I’m not trying to be a Parker or a Tony style.

IP: You’ve got years to grow into Tony’s business plan if you want.

RN: That’s not a dig against those guys. Like those guys are very successful in doing what they do, but I like to be right in the middle right out in the dirt and maybe 10 people maximum, and me being one of them. And that’s where I’d be, it is where I started, and that’s where I plan on staying, from right in the center, not from the outside.

That hasn’t changed as I have a very small crew this year. So I am just trying to be as efficient as possible, but some equipment changes plus some wash plant news and stuff like that.

IP: This is for the season you are filming now, the next season of “Gold Rush.”

RN: Oh yes. The Winter’s Fortune program kind of leads up to that. I believe the last [Winter’s Fortune] episode is kind of a lead-in to the beginning of the new season of “Gold Rush.” I think that it’s signing off on our big road trip, where we got a lot of work done and had a lot of fun, and made our way up here to get hammered on the mining season.

IP: Talk to me about Lance Baller this coming season.

RN: Lance Baller is who I bought Monster Red from, as he purchased Monster Red from the Hoffmans, and then the Hoffmans bailed. And then when I purchased Monster Red two years ago. He was the guy I went to Colorado to speak to and to buy it from, that was that season on Upper Duncan, and I almost lost everything.

And the big thing that I hated about that year was that I went into debt for the first time in well over a decade. I prided myself as an adult not going into debt, not taking out loans, not spending money that I don’t have. I bought that wash plant, Monster Red, with a down payment, and I had every intention of paying it off by the end of that year. And, it just didn’t work out.

I almost lost everything that year. And Lance was nice enough to defer a hundred ounces of gold I owed him for that plant. I went and paid him off that hundred ounces this winter. That was nice for me because it was a monkey off my back that had been there bugging me for two years. I don’t particularly appreciate owing people money. I still owed the guy a hundred ounces of gold, and I went out there to Colorado to hand-deliver it to him.

IP: For this new coming season that you guys are filming, what can you tell us?

RN: COVID still plays a factor in this show, up here, unfortunately. And that that’s just the way of the world right now. [Familiar] people are coming back, and some aren’t, unfortunately. That’s just the way of the world these days.

There are some unfortunate circumstances where a person or two that people probably know won’t be around this year. I’ve had to get some replacements in, but it’s working well. So I don’t think anybody will be disappointed too much by that once we get going, and there are some machine additions to the fleet this year that I think people will be pretty impressed with seeing.

I’m no Parker Schnabel running four D11s, but for the small crew that I have here, we’re tackling some ground that’s unprecedented on the show for what we’re doing. We are going deeper by far than anybody else has gone on the show for the gold and for some ground that’s rich, and we’re doing it with a small number of people and a couple of big machines.

I think overall, this is going to turn out to be a pretty impressive endeavor. And, the thing is, spoiler alert, because it hasn’t happened yet. We’re in the middle of the [coming] season. I think it will turn out to be a home run, but we are not there yet.

IP: Who is your MVP? Who is the person that you rely on this year?

RN: This year? I actually can’t reveal that this year. It is complicated, but you’re just going to have to trust me. But I do have a new guy in here. I’ve known him for years and years. You have to trust me on that. And he’s taken a pretty important role for me this year, and that is a spoiler alert. I can’t let it out, but I think everybody’s going to like it a lot.

Gold Rush: Winter’s Fortune premieres Friday, July 30, at 8 PM ET/PT on Discovery and Streaming on discovery+.

April Neale is a television, film, and culture features writer and member of the Critics Choice Awards, Television Critics Association, Alliance of Women Film Journalists, and Hollywood Critics Association, living in the Treasure Valley. You can contact her on Twitter at @AprilMac.

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