Barefoot on Half Moon Lake

Photo courtesy of Ben Barto

Around 1962 when I was 10 my father, Louis Barto, mom and my four brothers and sisters —Dan wasn’t born yet — spent our weekends on Half Moon Lake with Jim and Norma Buston, Jim Jr., George and a younger sister. Jim and dad taught me how to water-ski behind his boat. As my brothers got older, they were all taught as well.
Our family loved spending so much time up there that my dad built a little cabin on the old power plant road just a few miles between Pinedale and Fremont Lake. Dad and all of us kids then learned how to snow ski at White Pine lodge back in the day when all they had was a rope tow and Poma lift. My brother Louie is still on the ski patrol at White Pine.
When I was about 23 I bought my first boat with a 175 HP motor and was water skiing regularly. Then one day I observed a guy skiing next to the shoreline on one ski. He stepped off the ski and kept going, barefoot. I had never seen anything like that and knew I had to ask if he would teach me. In order to ski barefoot you must go very fast and the water is not very soft when you step off at around 40 mph. He showed me enough to get the idea and told me just keep trying. I tried several times and then realized my boat did not have enough speed to keep me up once I planted my other foot.
It wasn’t until about five years later when I met a friend who had a jet boat that I finally made it. I then found another friend who had a tournament ski boat and he taught me how to run a slalom ski course, all while I continued improving at barefooting.
In 1981, I received my professional ranking in slalom skiing and entered a tournament in Ketchum, Idaho. I made my first pass and fell on my second. After seeing all the pros rip-it at the tournament, I realized what it would take to get better. Not having my own tournament boat and two children to raise, I thought I had to quit competition.
However, my friend from Rock Springs, Greg Short, skied professionally and had a tournament boat and a slalom ski course at Flaming Gorge so we started a ski school. For a period of about 20 years I only skied occasionally, and then an opportunity come up on an old tournament ski boat with a 200 HP motor complete with a barefoot boom for a great price. Now I am back to teaching friends, family and grandchildren how to slalom and barefoot ski and loving every minute of it!
Last year after Labor Day, my brothers and I with our wives and friends, spent the night in Pinedale for my 69th birthday and the next day rode the bikes up to ElkhartPark. On the way back we stopped down at the Half Moon campground to visit the sandy beach where it all started. The water was surprisingly warm and smooth as glass.
I decided then to put returning to this lake for my 70th birthday on my bucket list and asked everyone else if they would like to join us. It was surreal to return to “dance on the water,” and share with my wife, Sherry, family and friends and give the gift of barefooting for the first time on Half Moon Lake to my brother, Dan and his nephew, Philip. A memory they will never forget!

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