We examined microorganisms and pollen in a pit (4.5m deep) and a shallow ice core (25.01m long) from Sofiyskiy glacier in the Altai mountains of Russia for potential use in dating ice cores from a mid-latitude glacier. The ice-core and pit samples contained various green algae, cyanobacteria, bacteria, fungi and pollen. In the vertical profiles of the pit, algal biomass peaks corresponded to high δ18O layers and Pinaceae pollen peaks, suggesting that these algae grew during the melt season. In contrast, the layer with the lowest δ18O contained almost no algal cells. Major peaks of the cyanobacteria, bacteria and a fungus roughly corresponded to those of the algae. However, seasonal changes in these microorganisms became indistinct deeper in the core, as did the seasonal variation in δ18O and major ions, most likely due to heavy meltwater percolation and/or post-depositional decomposition. In contrast, clear seasonal cycles were evident in the algal biomass and pollen in snow samples. Assuming that the peaks of the snow algae and Pinaceae pollen marked summer layers and that the layers with almost no snow algae represented the winter layers, we estimated that the ice core contained 16 annual layers (1985–2001). The mean annual mass balance for the period was estimated to be 1.01mw.e. The value agreed well with those estimated from stake measurements, indicating that snow algae and pollen could provide reliable boundary markers of annual layers in the ice cores of this region.