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  • Photo: Courtesy of Kasey Austin

    Family: Kasey Austin, Austin Adventures

    Turf: Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks; Alaska, South Dakota, South America, and Europe

    Cred: Yes, she’s young, just 25, but Austin ­started tagging along on multi­sport trips with her father, Austin-Lehman cofounder Dan Austin, at the age of six to help enter­tain the clients’ kids. By 16, she’d learned an essen­tial secret: “If you can make the kids happy, then their parents will be happy.” Austin, also the VP of operations, has a degree in elementary education, can fix a brake or a flat tire, and can whip up feasts. And she’s funny. “I take chocolate Clif Bars, roll them into elk-scat shapes, and scatter them on the trail. Then I pick one up, explain the difference between elk and bison scat, and eat it. Everyone freaks out.”

    Book Her: austinlehman.com

    —Stephanie Pearson

  • Photo: Courtesy of Marcello Bonini

    Cycling: Marcello Bonini, Ciclismo Classico

    Turf: Italy

    Cred: A masseur, sommelier, and former half-Ironman national ­champion, the Italy-based ­Bonini learned how to cycle before he could write. “Marcello has consistently received the highest ratings from guests for 15 years,” says Ciclismo founder Lauren Hefferon. Despite all the praise, the 48-year-old ­Bonini, who has led close to 100 trips, is humble. “Whatever I learn, I try to share, and people on a bike have to listen. They can’t run away from me,” he says. Among other trips, Bonini is the specialist for Ciclismo’s 11-day, 350-mile Bike Across Italy.

    Book Him: ciclismoclassico.com

  • Photo: Courtesy of Vassi Koutsaftis

    Cultural: Vassi Koutsaftis, ­GeoEx

    Turf: Asia, Africa, and the Middle East

    Cred: Athens-born, U.S.–educated Kout­saftis, 61, started wander­ing the globe working on cruise ships and freighters at 18. He’s been guiding Geo­Ex clients to remote and dangerous areas, like Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor, for the past 29 years. “Vassi is famed for his engaging personality, his mountaineering skills, his geographical, cultural, and historical knowledge, his sense of humor, and his ability to talk his group out of any difficulty with soldiers and border offi­cials,” says Don George, editor of GeoEx’s travel blog, Wanderlust. As one client said: “I’ll never travel with any other leader.”

    Book Him: geoex.com

  • Photo: Keoki Flagg

    Heli-Skiing: Lel Tone, Chugach Powder Guides and Tordrillo Mountain Lodge

    Turf: Alaska

    Cred: Raised in Switzerland, Tone, 43, bases out of Squaw Valley, in Lake Tahoe, California, where she is a ski patroller and avalanche forecaster. She has also taught 200 avalanche-awareness workshops; skied backcountry in the Sierras, the Olympics, the Cascades, and the Alaska range; notched a ski descent off the Fuhrer Thumb on Mount Rainier; and climbed up and skied down Denali. “Lel is revered in an industry dominated by men,” says Nick Thomson, owner of Chugach Powder Guides. “Not just because she’s a strong skier even by the highest big-mountain standards, and not just because she is one of the most certified and experienced ski-safety experts in the field. It’s because she shows up with an infectious enthusiasm for what she does every day.”

    Book Her: chugachpowderguides.com

  • Photo: Wilderness Safaris

    Safari: Thuto Moutloatse, Wilderness Safaris

    Turf: Southern Africa

    Cred: Botswana-based Moutloatse will get you seriously close to wildlife. The son of a South African ornithologist, Moutloatse, 32, grew up paddling the Okavango Delta, climbing mountains, and walking into the dens of large carnivores. In his 13 years guiding he has a perfect safety record, despite regular wildlife run-ins like a surprise meeting with a leopard on a walking safari. “Thuto is an accomplished naturalist with a broad knowledge of birds, mammals, reptiles, and plants,” says Grant Woodrow, Wilderness Safaris’ Botswana managing director. “He also has a larger-than-life personality and transforms each game drive into a fun, vibrant, informative, and life-changing wilderness experience.” Moutloatse’s favorite trips? “To go out with guests in the middle of nowhere, cook food on an open campfire, swim in the Okavango Delta, and spend time fishing. Those safaris blow me away,” he says.

    Book Him: wilderness-safaris.com

  • Photo: Margaret Turner

    Trekking: Dawa Temba Sherpa, REI Adventures

    Turf: Mount Everest Base Camp

    Cred: If you want to trek to Everest Base Camp and get ­immersed in Sherpa culture, Dawa Temba’s your guy. The former Buddhist monk lives at 11,500 feet in Namche Bazaar, Nepal, and his father, Ila T­sering Sherpa, was a member of the 1963 American Everest Expe­dition. Since 1999, Dawa Temba has led most of REI’s 19-day treks to Everest Base Camp. (He has never climbed the mountain.) “I still use my religion for my trekking job—­especially the patience,” says 50-year-old Dawa Temba. According to REI Adven­tures’ Justin Wood: “Dawa Temba’s world, like his heart, is open to all who visit.”

    Book Him: rei.com/adventures

  • Photo: Alex Nicks

    Whitewater: Jorge Esquivel, Roam ­Adventures, Bio Bio Expeditions Worldwide

    Turf: Alaska, British Columbia, Colorado, Chile, Peru, Argentina, Italy, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Bhutan, and Nepal

    Cred: Many Western outfitters rely heavily on local guides to run their trips. Nominated by two companies as their top guide for his skills at whitewater paddling, his salsa dancing, and his calm demeanor in treacherous situations on and off the water, Esquivel started guiding at 15. Now 34, the Costa Rica native and 2003 freestyle kayaking champion has a deep understanding and respect for rivers, from Zimbabwe’s Zambezi to Chile’s Futaleufú. He approaches even the most intimidating Class V situations with a calm that puts everyone at ease. He speaks three languages, studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago, and can grill anything over an open flame, including full pork racks, goat, and lamb. “He makes all the guests feel safe, appreciated, and better about themselves,” says Marc Goddard of Bio Bio Expeditions. “But there is one characteristic that sets him apart. He is the nicest guy in the world.”

    Book Him: iroamtheworld.com; bbxrafting.com

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