Jackson Hole Airport take off

Takeoff from the Jackson Hole Airport in November 2021.

More than half a million people flew out of Jackson Hole in 2021 — a new record for Jackson Hole Airport.

“We are not driving the growth or change in this community,” Jim Elwood, the seven-year airport director, told the Jackson Hole Daily Friday. “The airport is a piece of infrastructure that’s responding just like the roads and other facilities across our community. And that’s just the reality of this moment.”

In the past few years, massive crowds have descended on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Enplanements at the airport — a count of the number of people boarding planes — hit 508,838 in 2021.

Yellowstone National Park recorded over 4.8 million recreational visits in 2021, a 28% jump from the year prior, though WyoFile reported Friday that the way visits were counted this year may have overestimated the number of actual visitors to the park by 900,000. That would put visitation to the world’s first national park just under peak 2016 levels.

Grand Teton National Park had not yet released its complete figures for 2021 by press time but announced earlier this year that, by September, it had already surpassed its busiest year on record — 2018 — which saw 3,491,151 recreational visits. By September, the park had seen 3,493,937. By November, that number had climbed to 3,833,000, Grand Teton Chief of Staff Jeremy Barnum said.

“So we know that 2021 was a record-breaking year,” Barnum said.

But Elwood and Jackson Town Councilor Jonathan Schechter, who also pens the Market Watch column for the Jackson Hole News&Guide, said the airport’s increasing use is a long-term trend.

Elwood said that most of the growth at the airport has been happening in the winter and offseasons. Both credited JH AIR, a program that has guaranteed airlines a revenue minimum in exchange for running ski season service to Jackson Hole, for increasing wintertime air travel to the Tetons.

“That program has been effective in being able to bring people to our community in the wintertime,” Elwood said.

Schechter said he couldn’t pass a value judgment on the number.

“I just see it as another side of the growth and change that’s washing over our community,” he said.

Contact Billy Arnold at 732-7063 or barnold@jhnewsandguide.com.

Teton County Reporter

Billy Arnold has covered government and policy since January 2020, sitting through hours of Teton County meetings so readers don't have to. He moonlights as a ski reporter, helps with pandemic coverage and sneaks away to climb when he can.

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