Top Vancouver recommendations from Tim Zagat

Olympic Glory!The Olympics are so exciting that we forget ourselves. Once bestowed with a ticket, we find ourselves a flight and forget the rest.

Fortunately, there’s a Zagat Survey for the rest. Co-Founder, Co-Chair & CEO Tim Zagat just released his newest guide to Vancouver. “[Zagat Surveys] are based on a large number of avid, local consumers and are put through a careful editing process,” says Zagat of why his guides are so legendary. The other secret? “We have always kept our personal selections independent from the survey to avoid playing favorites.”

Zagat took the time to answer a few of our questions about Vancouver. Check out the interview below for a peek inside the Survey’s top picks for food and what tourists should expect.

Gadling: What should one look for in Vancouver? What is special about the destination (besides, you know, the Olympics)?

Tim ZagatTim Zagat: Whether you are looking for a fine dining experience or an attraction for the family, there is no shortage of excitement in Vancouver. Besides being a very attractive city, nearly 300 of the region’s finest restaurants, nightspots, attractions and hotels can be accessed in our 2010 Vancouver Survey and on ZAGAT.com. Surrounding areas such as Whistler, Victoria and Vancouver Island are all appealing.

G: With what cities would you compare Vancouver, for someone who’s never been there?

TZ: Seattle and Portland

G: If money were no object, what would be the ultimate Vancouver experience?
TZ: Most Popular:
1) Vij’s
2) Keg Steak
3) Blue Water Café
4) Le Crocodile
5) Chambar

Top Food:
1) La Belle Auberge
2) Vij’s
3) Cioppino’s
4) Le Crocodile
5) ToJo’s

G: Is there a specific local cuisine one must absolutely try?

TZ: I would recommend trying some of the great Pacific Northwest and Seafood restaurants in the area.
Top Pacific NW:
1) Bishop’s
2) West
3) Diva at the Met
4) Refuel
5) Cru

Top Seafood:
1) Blue Water Cafe & Raw Bar
2) C Restaurant
3) Go Fish!
4) Sun Sui Wah Seafood
5) Rodney’s Oyster House

G: Any customs of which tourists should be careful?

TZ: As an expected 2.3 million attendees are expected to come for the Olympics, tourists should plan for changing traffic patterns, enhanced security zones and extra travel time for all local and regional travel. In certain areas and hours, vehicles will be banned, so tourists can plan on foot-traffic.

G: What do you think the Olympics will do for Vancouver in the long run?

TZ: In the long run, any city that hosts the Olympics experiences an international spotlight on its culture, customs and traditions. Similar to the experiences in other Olympic cities, Vancouver should anticipate a long-term boost in economic growth and tourism.

You can access the 2010 Vancouver Zagat Survey for free here.

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Olympics resorting to using dry ice on Cypress Mountain

Last week we told you about Cypress Mountain, one of the venues for the Vancouver Winter Olympics which at the time was actually having snow delivered to the mountain. Unseasonably warm weather, and an uncharacteristic lack of of snowfall, had caused Olympic organizers to scramble to prepare the slopes for the snowboarding halfpipe competition, as well as several downhill ski events. But conditions haven’t improved much, and now they’re having to come up with more creative ways for keeping the snow that they trucked in from melting away as well.

Earlier in the week it was reported that dry ice would now be used to artificially cool the snow, particularly on the moguls and aeriels courses. Apparently, black tubes resembling flexible plastic drainage pipes, have been buried under the powder, and the dry ice is being pumped into those tubes. It is then frozen for 12 hours, and later used to help maintain the quality of the snow throughout the day. Officials hope that these efforts will allow them to maintain a steady base of snow throughout the two weeks of competition.

Meanwhile, weather forecasts continue to predict warmer than usual temperatures. For the week ahead, highs are expected to be around 38ºF, with little snow predicted. Workers are also expected to be busy around the clock continuing to deliver snow to the mountain, with helicopters being used to dump it on the slopes themselves. It seems they have an Olympic sized challenge ahead of them as well.

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A ski expert’s secret tips to Whistler and Vancouver

All eyes will be on British Columbia during the Olympics. Who better to share some secrets than a local?

I first met Jeremy Neill a few years ago when he was a product manager for Fresh Tracks, a Vancouver-based tour operator that specializes in Canada and Alaska. Born in Bath, England, Neill has lived in Vancouver for the past three years. Though he’s the first to say he’s not a native, Neill does have the inside scoop on the local ski scene–armed with 15 years of snowboarding experience, Neill is the author of The Mad Dog Ski guide to Whistler (maddogski.com).

Q: What are some après-ski spots in Whistler where you might see someone famous?
A: The Brewhouse at Whistler is the one of the closest to the Medals Plaza so that might have the best chance of seeing an athlete. The liveliest places are the Longhorn Saloon & Grill in Skiers Plaza, which has the best views of the Whistler runs, and Merlins at Blackcomb, which is known for its huge nachos and as a place to party.

Q: And for Vancouver?
A: That’s tough as there are so many options in downtown Vancouver. A lot of people are hoping to access the “houses” where sponsors and partners are hosting parties and events. Widely anticipated is the Holland Heineken House at the Richmond Ozone. Downtown Vancouver has two Live Sites: LiveCity Downtown and LiveCity Yaletown. These outdoor celebration sites are free to enter. You can see live coverage and short films on giant screens, view exhibits from Canadian artists, and enjoy some local food and drinks.Q: Any shortcuts to equipment rentals or lift passes?
A: Definitely book rentals in advance. Some rental shops are open in the evening, so you can go and get your kit in advance. Lift tickets can be bought online, and discount day tickets are available in local 7-Elevens.

Q: What’s the local beverage of choice after a long day on the slopes?
A: The drink I go for often depends on the time of year. In January I like the Amsterdam Cafe as they have warm alcoholic toddies with a view of people on the village stroll. After a day of spring riding, an ice-cold beer is always refreshing. This is not hard to come by in Whistler. Any of the bars at the base of Blackcomb or Whistler are a great spot.

Q: Is there a beautiful ski run that even beginners can handle and shouldn’t miss?
A: Ego Bowl on Whistler is a favorite with beginners. It’s an easy pitch and has brilliant views on a clear day. The Emerald Express Chair lift slows nicely at the top with a flat run out, so it’s easy to get off. It can get busy though, especially if the chairs at higher elevation are not running.

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What’s up with all those wacky Vancouver Olympic mascots?

No Olympics is complete without heavy marketing, and Vancouver will be no exception. Meet the trio of Olympic mascots, which are sure to be emblazoned on everything you can think of. Want a reusable ice pack? Now’s your chance to get one for only $9!

Quatchi, the sasquatch: This sasquatch (also known as Bigfoot) loves hockey, photography, and travel. I want those blue earmuffs.

Sumi, the animal spirit: Sumi has the hat of an orca whale, the wings of a thunderbird, and the furry legs of a black bear. (Aww how cute.) His hobbies? Alpine skiing and flying over the Coast Mountains.

Miga, the sea bear: Sea what? Part killer whale and part Kermode bear, a sea bear is apparently what happens when orca whales transform into bears on land, according to First Nations legend. Miga’s Olympic profile (who doesn’t have a profile these days?) says that her favorite food is wild salmon: salmon jerky, smoked salmon, B.C. sushi roll. Mmm tasty. Her hobbies: surfing, snowboarding, and anything “fun and exciting!”

For other mascot accessories, check out the Olympic Store. How on earth will you decide between Quatchi fuzzy slippers ($25) and a 38-inch-tall plush Quatchi ($350)?

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Cypress Mountain has snow delivered in time for Olympic Games

With just one week to go until the opening ceremonies, the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver are struggling to find enough snow for some of the planned events. In particular, Cypress Mountain, which will host snowboarding and freestyle competitions beginning February 13, has been scrambling to complete their halfpipe, as well as the ski and snowboard cross courses. The resort has so little snow in fact, that they’ve resorted to using over 1000 bales of straw to construct the needed infrastructure, and have had more than 300 truckloads of snow delivered from elsewhere around the area.

It has been an unusual winter so far in Vancouver, with average temperatures at their highest point in more than 70 years. Experts are placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of the El Niño weather pattern, which has been warming the Pacific Ocean for several months. The result has been little to no snowfall across the region in January, which means no new, fresh powder for the athletes, who began arriving yesterday in preparation for the games. The forecast for February doesn’t look much better, as more unseasonably high temperatures, and rain, not snow, are expected in the days ahead.

International Ski Federation president Gian-Franco Kasper told the Canadian press that he isn’t worried, as just 10 cm of snow is needed to cover the straw and make it ready for the athletes. Other event organizers say that while the lack of snow has been an issue across all the venues, Cypress Mountain is the only one that has caused significant concerns. They also promise that everything will be ready when the games officially open next Friday.

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