RUSSIAN novelist Leo Tolstoy was thinking of the Caucasus when he wrote ''it's in the mountains that live the eagles''. Between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, the Caucasus mountains stretch for 1,200 kilometres. The highest peak is Mount Elbruz, towering at 5,642 metres, with 10 other summits exceeding Mont Blanc, historically Europe's tallest summit. Indeed, when compared to the Caucasus, the Alps resemble foothills. Three years ago Chamonix-based mountain guide Marc Testut and helicopter pilot Jean-Pierre Payot flew over these legendary peaks. It was a case of love at first sight. The two decided they would open up these pristine ranges to intrepid skiers with a taste for adventure. Their venture, to ferry skiers to virgin slopes they could never reach before, has led the way to a new skiing rage that is the latest thing all over Europe. ''We were tired of ski resorts. We wanted virgin mountain,'' Testut said. The ''base camp'' was an old, forgotten village, Krasnaya Poliana, located at an altitude of 800 metres, and only 15 minutes by air from Sotchi airport. The investors turned a former hunting lodge of the tsars into a decent hotel, and opened bookings. The day begins at 9 am with skiers and a guide flying off to their first run. A helicopter drops them off on top of a virgin mountain. After the chopper and its turbulence move away, the skiers are alone with their guide, and feel ''on top of the world''. The altitude is about 2,000 metres. Everywhere around there is snow and silence. The only obsession then becomes tracing bold, perfect ''s'' patterns in the unspoilt snow. Several long minutes later the run ends below. Like some toy, the helicopter is waiting, into which clamber the skiers for more heady skiing somewhere else. In the evening, exhausted, guests can exchange impressions over Georgian wine, caviar and oysters - and dream about tomorrow, where more of the same awaits. Figaro Magazine/Gamma How to get there Aeroflot flies from Hongkong to Tbilisi via Moscow. Wallem Travel offers and economy class return flight for $5,850. Visa: Required.