By Steve Hubrecht
A local man is set to feature in a major continent-wide television program next month.
Last fall David Thompson Secondary School (DTSS) outdoor education teacher Alan Tenta went from teaching students outdoor survival skills such as shelter building and fire lighting to actually using these techniques to survive on this own in remote northern Saskatchewan as a contestant on the 10th season of the History Channel’s popular survival reality show ‘Alone’.
The filming took place last year, but the show is only now set to air this coming summer. Valley viewers who love the outdoors, who were once taught at DTSS by Tenta, or who are just plain curious to see a local fellow test his mettle in the wilds can tune in to the season 10 premiere on Thursday, June 8 at 8 p.m. MST.
Each season of the hit show stars 10 people. The 10 are dropped off, each by themselves, in a remote wilderness location during the fall. They are allowed to bring just 10 items with them, aside from the clothes they are wearing. The contestants then try to survive, alone, for as long as possible.
They have no contact with other humans, aside from medical checkups (which become more frequent as the contestant progresses). Contestants are given cameras, which they keep on constantly. Television producers edit and compile the footage to create the show. Participants can choose to ‘tap out’ (i.e. voluntarily leave) at any time, and they can be “pulled out” for failing a medical checkup. They spend most of their time building shelters, and trying to procure food, in order to last as long as possible.
The winner is the contestant who lasts the longest, and gets $500,000 for their troubles.
Past seasons have seen participants last anywhere from six hours to 100 days in locations ranging from Patagonia to Vancouver Island, the Arctic, northeastern Labrador and northern Mongolia.
Tenta is a Kootenay boy through and through, having grown up in Fruitvale (near Trail). There he developed a love of fishing (starting on the small creek below his house), hunting and archery, and even today his favourite outdoor pursuits are fly fishing and bow hunting. That said, he does just about everything else you can do outdoors in the Columbia Valley: hiking, camping, mountain biking, rock climbing, cross country skiing and more.
“When I’m outside, it’s my solace. It’s where I feel the most alive. My senses just ignite,” Tenta told the Pioneer.
For as long as he’s been heading outdoors, he’s been comfortable being alone there. In fact, he enjoys the solitude. “I really like just sitting and watching my surroundings. I find it extremely relaxing . . . there’s a peace I get from it,” he said.
After graduating teacher’s college at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Tenta and his wife Lisa (who is a vice-principal at DTSS) worked in Fort Nelson, in northern B.C, before settling in the Columbia Valley in 2010, along with their son Davis and daughter Mackenzie. Tenta’s family also enjoys the outdoors, just not in quite the same solo-immersion-in-wilderness way that he does.
After several years teaching English, social studies and physical education in the valley, Tenta went to the local school board and proposed adding an outdoor education class at DTSS, something the school did not have at the time. The board agreed, and the class began, with Tenta teaching in 2016. Students in the class learn how to tie flies, how to fly fish, ice fish, cross country ski, rock climb, mountain bike, canoe, build shelters, start fires, track animals, identify birds, and are taught survival skills among other things.
One day, in February 2022, the class was doing knife carving woodwork. Tenta had ‘Alone’ playing on a screen in the background, since it fit well with the class curriculum. “They said, ‘Mr. Tenta, you should apply (to be on the show)’,” he recalled.
Tenta checked out the possibility. He found a casting call for season 10, and in response to it, he fired off a quick email. His message was only four or five sentences long, and he didn’t expect much to come from it. But he got a reply, with an application form.
He sent that back, and then got another response. For the next few months he then proceeded through round after round of applications. More than 40,000 people applied to be on season 10, and so the History Channel’s process of whittling those down to 10 contestants was, understandably, quite lengthy. Finally, in July 2022, Tenta found out he would be on the show.
“I never even expected to make it as far as I did through the application process,” said Tenta, adding that, consequently, upon learning he would actually be on the show, “I was so elated. It’s incredible. One of the 10 most exciting moments of my life.”
Tenta is bound to secrecy about what happens during the show, and could only tell the Pioneer that when he set off for filming last year, he was very much looking forward to the mental and physical challenges that lay ahead.
Residents with long memories will recall that Tenta is in fact the second Columbia Valley resident to appear on ‘Alone.’ Canal Flats resident and outdoorsman Greg Ovens appeared on season 3, which was filmed in Patagonia and which aired in late 2016 and early 2017. Ovens lasted 51 days before tapping out due to hypothermia. Those 51 days were good enough for Ovens to end in a tie for sixth place, out of the 10 contestants.