Ski Chalet Hot for Home Control

Zoned music, user-friendly lighting control, automated fireplace igniters, and a mountain of other features make this getaway as much fun as the slopes.


It's cold outside, but this well-automated home is always comfortable, thanks to a variety of control systems that regulate the thermostats, lighting and music based on the homeowner's comings and goings.

Fresh white powder, clear blue skies, black diamonds and an iPod chock full of tunes are what Tim Jordan craves after a long week at work. It’s a good thing some of the best skiing in the country is just a two-hour drive from his Colorado Springs home. But even a two-hour drive gets old. After years of commuting to the mountains, Tim decided to spring for his own vacation house in Breckenridge.

He would build his ski chalet big enough to comfortably accommodate friends and family, locate it close to the slopes to make skiing convenient, and outfit it with amazing electronic systems that would take après-ski to a whole new level of enjoyment.

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Checking In
But Tim would also think practically about the project. “I needed to make sure that the house would be safe even when I wasn’t there to keep an eye on things,” he explains. “I typically stay at the house two or three times a month. It’s those other times, when my family and friends stay over or when the house is completely unoccupied, that I needed some peace of mind that everything was turned off and locked up.” For that, he called on home systems specialist Robert Ridenour at Connected Technologies in Colorado Springs, CO. Given Tim’s concerns, Ridenour suggested a monitoring system that would allow Tim to oversee the residence remotely from any telephone in the world. From his permanent residence in Colorado Springs, for example, he would be able to call the system to confirm that his guests had shut the garage doors and activated the security system before they left. If not, he would be able to press a few buttons on the telephone dial pad to instruct the system to close everything up. Those features were all the convincing Tim needed. While the 6,000-square-foot home was under construction, Connected Technologies installed all the necessary sensors, detectors, wiring and controllers to provide Tim with a simple, affordable means of monitoring and supervising his mountainside getaway.

Automated Elegance
The system can handle some of the housekeeping duties without any intervention from Tim. “We used one of his brothers as our design guideline,” explains Ridenour. “He can be a bit absent minded and tends to ski too late, so that he has to rush out of the house to catch his flight,” Tim adds. “I could envision him forgetting to turn off the fireplaces or leaving a window open.” Thanks to the DSC Power 832 security system and Lutron HomeWorks Interactive lighting system, the only thing Tim’s brother or any other visitor needs to remember is to touch the all off button on a Lutron keypad as they exit the back door. That one command shuts off the fireplaces and the lights. And if any TV, stereo or surround-sound receiver is still on, the DSC system won’t arm until those electronics are manually turned off. The all off order also activates the security sensors and lowers the thermostats, but only if all the doors and windows have been closed. Once everything has been closed and shut off, the security system can be engaged. “We thought of everything that could possibly go wrong and figured out how the system could fix it,” says Ridenour. “We ended up making the house completely fail-safe.”

It’s just as simple and foolproof to prepare the house for someone’s arrival. When Tim is en route to Breckenridge, he can call the system to warm up the house and turn on a few lights. “I’m also able to unlock the doors when my friends are on their way,” he says. Once they’ve settled in, Tim’s guests can enjoy a bounty of music and movies—or hit the slopes first. No matter when they decide to pull off their skis, the entertainment is just a push of a button away. Pressing the dvd button on the Universal Remote Control MX-850 remote, for example, sets up the downstairs for a movie. In a perfectly timed sequence, which was programmed into the remote by Ridenour, the lights fade out, the 50-inch Sony rear-projection TV and DVD player activate, and the Yamaha surround-sound receiver switches to DVD mode. It’s just another example of how Tim and Ridenour worked together to ensure the vacation home would be easy for everyone—not just Tim—to use. “The audio/video components may not be super high-end, but the macros [strings of commands issued by one button] that Robert designed into the remote make this an amazing media room,” says Tim.

Split Reaction
Depending on which macro setting is engaged, the sconces on the stairway react in a certain way. For example, if the room lights have been dimmed for a movie, the sconces will match that level. If the room lights are bright, the sconces will go full tilt, too. It all happens automatically when someone steps on a pressure sensor mat that was planted underneath the carpeting.

Pathway lighting occurs all over the house, courtesy of the Lutron HomeWorks Interactive system. One of Tim’s favorite settings, “goodnight,” dimly lights the way from each master bedroom (the house has two) to the kitchen. This command, which can be enacted from any Lutron keypad, also turns off any fireplace and interior lights that have been left on and sets the hallway and stairway lights to a soft glow. Other lighting scenes set up the different lamps in the house for entertaining, dining and casual evenings around the fire. For all this convenience and elegance, Tim spent just 20 percent more than he would have for a standard lighting setup, says Ridenour.

iPod Takes Over
Designed with a home theater, plasma TVs in each master bedroom, fireplaces and awesome views of the mountains, there’s something for everyone at Tim’s Breckenridge retreat. But no matter what’s on the agenda, music is almost always playing in the background. A Niles Audio whole-house music system feeds tunes from Tim’s iPod to speakers planted in the walls in nearly every room. The iPod attaches to the music system by plugging into a docking station on the kitchen counter. Tim can choose which songs he’d like to play directly from the iPod or from a Niles Intellipad keypad. Ridenour installed two music keypads, in addition to several Lutron lighting keypads. Utilizing separate controls for each system was less expensive than outfitting the house with touchpanels that could operate everything, according to Ridenour.

Everything in Moderation
Given that so much of the home is automated, Tim really didn’t need something as robust as a touchpanel to operate the lights, music, fireplaces and security sensors. A telephone is just about all he needs to turn things on and off from the road. A few additional keypads and a universal remote control offer a convenient way to close up the house for the night, call up a piece of music or rev up the home theater. “In all, Tim spent around $50,000 for the systems and labor,” says Ridenour. “The house is a great example of how moderately priced systems can give you a lot of bang for your buck.” Tim couldn’t agree more. A modest two-zone music system and home theater keeps him and his guests well entertained without breaking the bank, while a basic telephone-based monitoring system lets him know his house is well cared for when he’s away. For a homeowner like Tim, having that peace of mind is priceless.


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