A glacier parameterization scheme has been developed and implemented into the regional climate model REMO. The new scheme interactively simulates the mass balance as well as changes of the areal extent of glaciers on a subgrid scale. The temporal evolution and the general magnitude of the simulated glacier mass balance in the European Alps are in good accordance with observations for the period 1958–1980, but the strong mass loss towards the end of the twentieth century is systematically underestimated. The simulated decrease of glacier area in the Alps between 1958 and 2003 ranges from -17.1 to -23.6%. The results indicate that observed glacier mass balances can be approximately reproduced within a regional climate model based on simplified concepts of glacier-climate interaction. However, realistic results can only be achieved by explicitly accounting for the subgrid variability of atmospheric parameters within a climate model grid box.