North

Fort Smith artist Michel Labine is on track to complete the world's largest snowshoe

Fort Smith artist Michel Labine is just a few steps away from completing a traditional snowshoe that he hopes will claim the title of world's largest in the Guinness Book of World Records.

The project took 3 months to complete, with Labine working on and off depending on weather

Michel Labine stands in front of a large-scale traditional snowshoe he built. He hopes it will claim the Guinness World Record for largest traditional snowshoe. (Carla Ulrich/CBC)

Fort Smith artist Michel Labine is just a few steps away from completing a traditional snowshoe that he hopes will claim the title of world's largest in the Guinness World Records.

Labine said he was inspired after he couldn't buy any more commercial snowshoes due to a wood shortage. He uses the snowshoes as art pieces by adding stained glass to them, something he is well known for in the N.W.T.

Like many northern projects, the idea started small and ended big. "I said I'm gonna build a snowshoe, then I decided, well I'm gonna build a big snowshoe," said Labine. 

The full scale of the snowshoe can be seen next to Labine. (Carla Ulrich/CBC)

He said the current record holder sits at three metres (or 10 feet) so naturally Labine's response was "Well, I'm gonna blow that out of the water."

And he did, the mostly finished snowshoe sits at 25.2 feet.

His initial goal was to add stained glass to the middle but because it needs to be a traditional snowshoe it needed to be laced instead. He chose to create a traditional Ojibwe or Mountain Dene snowshoe, which has points at both ends.

It turned out that scaling was one of the most complicated parts of the project. For that, he had to take the measurements of the smaller model snowshoe and multiply that by 6.24, which he hoped would put him somewhere between 24 and 26 feet.

Because of the large scale, the next most challenging part was lacing. He said he used an entire bison hide to lace the snowshoe — 583 feet of bison rawhide to be exact. He ended up taking it apart and redoing the front and back three times and the middle part twice. 

"It's not going to be perfect but I haven't seen a snowshoe that comes out of a commercial establishment that's perfect either," said Labine.

He is still waiting for parts of the rawhide to dry so he can finish varnishing the snowshoe, this will be the final step in the process of creation.

The next step will be to measure the snowshoe and then send the results to Guinness World Record officials. (Carla Ulrich/CBC)

The next step is to measure the snowshoe, he needs two witnesses and the process will need to be filmed as well. He also needs a professional to measure the snowshoe, luckily his neighbour is a surveyor.

"Once it's measured and submitted and they approve it, then I think it will be a big sigh of relief that I've accomplished my goals," said Labine. "It's all in the hands of Guinness now."

His hope is the snowshoe will stay in the community and be on display at either the Salt River First Nation band office or NSIXTY Trading Company. Labine's goal is to get it in the N.W.T. visitor guide so that it can add to the many tourist attractions that Fort Smith offers.

Labine said the project was sponsored by the N.W.T. Arts Council. He hopes the snowshoe will inspire others in the community to create large-scale projects.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carla Ulrich

Video journalist

Carla Ulrich is a video journalist with CBC North in Fort Smith, N.W.T. Reach her at carla.ulrich@cbc.ca.

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