Of all the appalling sights to see - an empty cookie jar, a wet, shivering puppy, melted ice cream - dusty ice skates, for me, has to be the worst. That was the sight I laid my eyes on last week....my pair of skates, lying unloved, on the floor at home. It was time to redeem myself.

Being a solutions-oriented guy, I put on the layers, started my truck, set the heater on "Arizona" and headed off to the Ice Palace at Riverfront Park - the outdoor rink that has been recognized for being one of the best in the nation.

I arrived just as the decorative lights at the park went on. I'm cool with cold weather because I used to have 6:00 a.m. hockey practice at an outdoor rink in January. While many attendees raced for the hot chocolate, I put on my gloves, my hat and - most importantly - my two pairs of socks, dug my feet into my beloved skates and hit the ice.

I was impressed with the condition of the entire sheet of ice. I've played on outdoor rinks that literally had slush in one corner and rivets in another. The Ice Palace  is well-maintained, very secure for everyone and the atmosphere was wonderful - Christmas lights above, music all around and skaters enjoying themselves.

As I stepped onto the ice, I took a glance across the rink. 95 percent of the skaters were holding onto something (or someone) to stay on their feet. There were masses of kids skating for the first time. The smiles on their nearly frozen faces told me they were enjoying themselves and who cares if their parents made them wear a funky helmet?

And who knows? Some of these kids may be skating champions someday, like the ones Spokane will see from Jan. 14 to Jan. 24 when the U.S. Figure Skating Championships return to Spokane. I have no doubt those skaters - like Evan Lysacek and dance pair Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto - started out on rinks just like the one at Riverfront Park, wearing odd-looking helmets, holding their parents' hands and stumbling around on the ice.

All skaters have to start out somewhere. Why don't you start out at the Ice Palace at Spokane's Riverfront Park?