We report on a glacier inventory for the Canadian Cordillera south of 60°N, across the two western provinces of British Columbia and Alberta, containing ~ 30,000 km2 of glacierized terrain. Our semi-automated method extracted glacier extents from Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) scenes for 2005 and 2000 using a band ratio (TM3/TM5). We compared these extents with glacier cover for the mid-1980s from high-altitude, aerial photography for British Columbia and from Landsat TM imagery for Alberta. A 25 m digital elevation model (DEM) helped to identify debris-covered ice and to split the glaciers into their respective drainage basins. The estimated mapping errors are 3–4% and arise primarily from seasonal snow cover. Glaciers in British Columbia and Alberta respectively lost − 10.8 ± 3.8% and − 25.4% ± 4.1% of their area over the period 1985–2005. The region-wide annual shrinkage rate of − 0.55% a− 1 is comparable to rates reported for other mountain ranges in the late twentieth century. Least glacierized mountain ranges with smaller glaciers lost the largest fraction of ice cover: the highest relative ice loss in British Columbia (− 24.0 ± 4.6%) occurred in the northern Interior Ranges, while glaciers in the northern Coast Mountains declined least (− 7.7 ± 3.4%).