A relatively lightweight and simple airborne system for surface elevation profiling of glaciers in narrow mountain valleys has been developed and tested. The aircraft position is determined by kinematic global positioning system (GPS) methods. The distance to the glacier surface is determined with a laser ranger. The accuracy is about 0.3 m, sufficient to permit future changes to be observed over short time intervals. Long-term changes can be estimated by comparison of profiles with existing maps. Elevation profiles obtained in 1993–94 from three glaciers in central and south-central Alaska are compared with maps made about 1950. The resulting area-averaged, seasonally corrected thickness changes during the interval are: Gulkana Glacier (central Alaska Range)–11 m, Worthington Glacier (central Chugach Mountains) +7 m, and Bear Lake Glacier (Kenai Mountains) −12 m. All three glaciers retreated during the interval of comparison. The estimated uncertainty in the average thickness change is ±5 m. which is mainly due to errors in the existing maps. Constraints on the accuracy of the maps are obtained by profiling in proglacial areas.