Should Fort Smith buy the world’s largest snowshoe?

A snowshoe that’s more than 25 feet long could become Fort Smith’s newest artistic showpiece – if councillors decide to buy it from artist Michel Labine.

Labine completed the project in 2022, first building a table and jig large enough, then carefully creating a vast replica of an Ojibwa snowshoe that includes 583 feet of bison rawhide lacing.

Guinness World Records formally certified the snowshoe as the planet’s largest in September last year.


But while Guinness World Records states the snowshoe is destined for the Salt River First Nation’s business and conference centre, that isn’t currently the case.

Instead, Labine has approached the Town of Fort Smith to see if the municipality is interested in paying $5,000 to acquire the snowshoe for permanent display.

“I don’t want it to end up in a garage. I don’t want it to end up someplace where it’s not going to be seen,” Labine told Cabin Radio on Thursday.

He has suggested to the NWT government’s Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment that the territory might purchase the snowshoe and display it at the border. Alternatively, he thinks the Town of Fort Smith could readily display the snowshoe inside the town’s recreation centre.

“I think it’s a positive thing for the community,” he said. “I’ve probably been contacted by 15 or 20 people asking me where it was on display, including people who drove here from Hay River to come see it.”


As a temporary solution over Christmas, Labine set up the snowshoe outside and draped it in festive lights.

Now, he wants the town – first approached in September – to hurry up and decide whether the snowshoe is a desirable municipal artifact.

Manning moose, Smith snowshoe?

At a meeting earlier this week, councillors seemed broadly interested in acquiring the snowshoe if a suitable plan to install and maintain it can be drawn up.

“It’s a good tourism initiative,” said Councillor Dana Fergusson. “People travel to places the see the world’s largest Ukrainian Easter egg or the moose in Manning. I’m not opposed to us having it, but where do we put it? How do we display it effectively?”


Equally, Fergusson said, the town already has items with some local meaning – like the cauldron that held the flame of the 2018 Arctic Winter Games, partly hosted by Fort Smith – buried out of sight in storage.

The Arctic Winter Games flame burns in Fort Smith
The Arctic Winter Games flame burns in Fort Smith in 2018. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio

“If we’re thinking about things we’re going to purchase just to set on display, I think of other things that we might already have in our assets that we haven’t even dealt with,” Fergusson said.

Jay MacDonald, the town’s deputy mayor, said: “I think if we’re going to support this and decide this is right for us, we should have a concrete plan that comes from administration that says how we take this forward and how it’s going to benefit the community, as opposed to just buying it and putting it in a shed somewhere.

“If it’s a reasonable plan, I’ll be fully supportive of moving it forward.”

Michel Labine stands with his snowshoe
Michel Labine stands with his snowshoe. Photo: Submitted

Where the $5,000 would come from is not clear. Town senior administrator Cynthia White said there is no budget line item into which the snowshoe easily fits. A partnership with the territorial government, potentially leaning on tourism funding, could be one solution.

The town will also have to consider the cost of installing the snowshoe and maintaining it over time.

That’s one reason why Labine thinks his creation would suit an indoor location like the recreation centre.

“Outdoors, the ravens will land on it and start picking at the tassels and whatnot,” he said. “If it’s indoors, I think it’s better.”

White told Cabin Radio on Thursday that town staff will now come back to councillors “with more information and a potential plan for if it is purchased.”