A coupling interface between the regional climate model REMO and a distributed glacier mass balance model is presented in a series of two papers. The first part describes and evaluates the reanalysis-driven regional climate simulation that is used to force a mass balance model for two glaciers of the Swiss mass balance network. The detailed validation of near-surface air temperature, precipitation, and global radiation for the European Alps shows that the basic spatial and temporal patterns of all three parameters are reproduced by REMO. Compared to the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) dataset, the Alpine mean temperature is underestimated by 0.34°C. Annual precipitation shows a positive bias of 17% (30%) with respect to the uncorrected gridded ALP-IMP (CRU) dataset. A number of important and systematic model biases arise in high-elevation regions, namely, a negative temperature bias in winter, a bias of seasonal precipitation (positive or negative, depending on gridbox altitude and season), and an underestimation of springtime and overestimation of summertime global radiation. These can be expected to have a strong effect on the simulated glacier mass balance. It is recommended to account for these shortcomings by applying correction procedures before using the RCM output for subsequent mass balance modeling. Despite the obvious model deficiencies in high-elevation regions, the new interface broadens the scope of application of glacier mass balance models and will allow for a straightforward assessment of future climate change impacts.