Mukluks make the difference in snowshoeing at the Arctic Winter Games

Certain trainers will tell you – it’s not the equipment that makes the difference, it’s the training.

But that old trope could be in vain for the snowshoers competing at the Arctic Winter Games in Wood Buffalo, Alta.

Especially those from Team Yukon, who saw every one of their snowshoe athletes on the podium this week.

Taiga Buurman won gold for his team. And his mukluks?

“My mom made these for me and she’s really good at her job,” he says. “She even made some for my father; they lasted quite a long time.

“It’s definitely cool to have something made by a family member.”

Team Yukon members show off their snowshoes.
Team Yukon participants show off their snowshoes. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Johannes Benkert won a silver Ulu. His mukluks came from his mother’s partner.

“They’re from his old team and their motto is actually ‘Let’s Motor’,” says Benkert. “So one shoe has an L for ‘Let’s’ and the other has an M for ‘Motor,’ so every time they slowed down and looked at their feet, they saw it and then went even faster.”

Mathias Frostad also took silver for the team.

“I think my grandma made these for someone else and I kind of inherited them,” he says.

Unlike many of the athletes in the Games, Victor Marie has had a life of snowshoeing. He started out hare snaring in the woods around Fort Smith, NWT and has competed in several Arctic Winter Games as an athlete, coach and this year as a technical official.

Now, at 78 and with his tough snowshoe days behind him, Marie jumps at the chance to share his knowledge.

Close-up of a man wearing glasses, smiling.
Victor Marie has been snowshoeing since growing up in Fort Smith, NWT and loves to share his knowledge with the next generation. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

While footwear is important for any snowshoe hiker, so is the technique used to buckle up the snowshoes – especially at these games, where traditional snowshoes are the norm and no modern metal snowshoes are allowed.

Earlier this week, Marie shared his skilful way of putting on the boots with the entire snowshoeing team – all eight children – from Nunavik.

Two ended up on the podium in their first ever snowshoe competition.

“I was impressed because no one knew how to tie snowshoes, no one knew how to snowshoe,” said CBC host Marc Winkler the trail breaker.

“They were really excited when they got on the podium.”

But that’s not what Marie is about, in Marie’s opinion.

“Everyone is here to have fun,” he said. “An ulu is just an ulu, right? Friendship is more important.”

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