For estimation of the mass balance of an unmeasured glacier, its area distribution with altitude, s (h), generally is the only available quantitative information. The appropriate specific balance profile, b (h), needs to be transferred from a measured glacier, where transfer means modification and adaptation to the topographic and climatic situation of the unmeasured glacier, such as altitude, exposure to sun and wind, or temperature. This study proposes the area median elevation, M, as a parameter of prime importance for the transfer. Using as an example ten Alpine glaciers, the similarity of M and equilibrium-line altitude is quantified and the effect of aspect and surrounding topography is qualitatively suggested. The transfer of b (h) between well-measured glaciers yielded differences in the mean specific balance of 150 mm in the mean of a 10 year period, which corresponds to a change in median altitude by 30 m. Transfer of b (h) with a shift according to median glacier elevation to a basin with 27 glaciers and 23 km2 ice cover agreed to within 10% with elevation changes converted from digital elevation models of 1969 and 1997.