For Artie Collins, whose family has been skating on Gorham's Pond for three generations, since they moved to Darien in 1930, it’s always clear when it’s a safe time skate.

“When it stays below freezing three or four days,” he said, the time has come.

This last sunny Saturday found him on the pond, along with his grown son Patrick.

“We grew up here,” Artie said. “We know when it’s safe.”

Perhaps the best upside to last week’s frigid air was the freezing of the expanse of Gorham's. Dozens of families came out over the weekend, many wielding hockey sticks, some on speed skates, but everyone in buoyant winter spirits.

“Any time it freezes over, I try not to miss it,” said Mark Weber, who came to Darien 20 years ago but still fondly reminisces about his childhood in Michigan on frozen ponds.

“It’s a tradition, not just here,” he said.

“It’s really refreshing and it sort of clears your mind,” explained Charlotte Moody, 14, of Darien, who also enjoys the special sounds of the skates on the ice.

“I like that you always feel like you’re gonna fall, but you’re not,” said Madeline Wren, 9, of Darien.

“It’s like walking on water,” said her sister, Katherine, 11.

“And I like that I’m with my family,” said their sister Annie, 7.