A method is presented that permits the determination of atmospheric depolarization-ratio profiles from three elastic-backscatter lidar signals with different sensitivity to the state of polarization of the backscattered light. The three-signal method is far less sensitive to experimental errors and does not require calibration of the measurement, as is the case of the two-signal lidar technique conventionally used for the observation of depolarization ratios. The three-signal method is applied to a polar stratospheric cloud observation. In the analysis we show that, depending on the statistical error of the measurement and on the lidar system parameters, the new method requires minimum cloud volume depolarization ratios to be applicable; in the case study presented, this threshold is ~0.2. Depolarization ratios determined with the three-signal method can be used to accurately calibrate measurements with the conventional two-signal technique.