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Arts
South Slave

Fort Smith artist attempts world-record snowshoe build


Michel Labine of Fort Smith is attempting to create the world’s largest snowshoe, which he hopes will also house a work of stained-glass art.

Labine has been placing stained glass within snowshoes since the early 1990s. Only this year did he have the idea to first make a larger-than-average snowshoe.

“I started to research the Guinness World Record and the biggest snowshoes are three metres, or 10 feet, right now. So I thought, well, go big or go home,” he said.

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The snowshoe Labine is building will be between 24 and 26 feet in length. The piece of stained glass destined to lie within will be around 48 inches at its widest and 60 inches long.

“It will be built with ash, the same traditional wood they make snowshoes with, and the lacing you would normally walk on will be made from bison rawhide,” Labine told Cabin Radio.

Labine has been working on the project for around three weeks and expects to complete it in mid-September.

“The bison rawhide is soaking right now and half the frame is finished. The other half is curing in the mold, and then I have to glue the pieces together,” he said.

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“The crossers will be put in and then I’ll get ready to start the shaping and lacing.”

The sheer size of the planned snowshoe is creating unusual challenges.

“I had to build a steamer and I had to dimension the lumber to all the same size. All the joints are staggered because you can’t get a board that’s 26 feet long,” Labine said.

“Then I had to build the table that I was going to put the shape on. It’s taking a while because I’m working outside – I can’t work on it every day, it’s weather permitting.”

On days when the weather is good, he starts at 6am and often finishes at around 8pm.

“I’ve never done anything this big, and it’s going to be a big job, but I think it’s an interesting project,” he said.

The artist has contacted Guinness World Records about the snowshoe and says his application is being reviewed.

Upon completion, he plans to keep the snowshoe within the NWT.

“I’m going to ask the Salt River First Nation about having the snowshoe in their centre. They’ve got a big conference room and I think it would look good there,” he said.

“It’s got to be accessible for the public to come and see. I don’t want it someplace where it’s not going to be seen.”

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